THOUSANDS of doctors, nurses and other frontline staff at Oxfordshire's hospitals have not had a flu jab to protect themselves and their patients, new figures reveal.

Public Health England statistics show 4,048 out of 10,796 frontline workers at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) had not been vaccinated against flu by the end of January.

The figures, which have been described as 'disappointing', include 800 doctors and 1,436 nurses.

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The trust, which runs the John Radcliffe Hospital, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Headington, as well as Banbury's Horton General Hospital, has blamed a 'supply issue' for the low uptake, which is down from last year and almost 10 per cent lower than the national average.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation, which runs community hospitals in the county, also had 1,369 of 4,795 frontline workers still not vaccinated, according to the same government figures.

Oxford Mail:

Doctors, nurses, clinical staff and support workers involved in direct patient care are encouraged to have the jab, as they risk passing the virus on to vulnerable groups.

Flu is likely to be more severe and could develop life-threatening complications like pneumonia in those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, as well as children and adults with an underlying health condition.

Trusts have financial incentives for staff uptake, receiving full payment if at least 80 per cent have it, and a decreasing amount down to 60 per cent coverage, below which they get nothing.

The target is measured between September and February, and the payment varies depending on the size of the trust’s contract.

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Across England, there was a 72.4 per cent uptake rate at the end of January, which was better than at the same point a year earlier, when it stood at 68.6 per cent.

OUH, however, had only managed to encourage 62.5 per cent of frontline staff to have the jab.

A statement from the trust said it had run a campaign, led by OUH's chief medical officer and the chief nursing officer, over the autumn and the winter urging all staff to get the flu jab to protect themselves, their patients and their colleagues.

Oxford Mail:

It added many members of staff supported the campaign by getting vaccinated and shared pictures of themselves having the flu jab on social media to encourage their colleagues to do the same.

The trust said it also trained more vaccinators – double the number from the previous year – offering staff more opportunities to get their flu jab outside of the many drop in clinics organised across all its sites over several months.

Explaining the reasons for the reduced numbers, the trust said: "A supply issue, which also affected other trusts nationally, has had an impact on our capacity to vaccinate our workforce."

Oxford Mail:

Professor Meghana Pandit

Professor Meghana Pandit, chief medical officer at OUH, said: “The level of support and engagement on the flu jab campaign was excellent and I want to thank all those members of staff who have had their flu jab and all the vaccinators.

“I would encourage anyone – staff or member of the public – who has not yet had their flu jab to do so.

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"For our staff, not only will this help protect our most vulnerable patients from a potentially serious illness but it will also help protect you and your families.”

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chair of Oxfordshire Patient Voice, said the figures were 'disappointing' but added: "We do live in a free country and it would be a sad day if staff were forced to have flu vaccinations."

A statement from Oxford Health said it had now vaccinated more of its employees, raising the total to 72.5 per cent of frontline staff.

Oxford Mail:

It added: "We know it is important our staff take care of others by taking care of themselves, so we have held more clinics at more times and locations to maximise staff attendance.

"We are still awaiting further results of clinics run this week and are pleased to report that we have already seen a substantial improvement on last year’s results."

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Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, described the disparity in vaccination rates between England's hospital trusts, which range from more than 90 per cent to only around 40 per cent as 'worrying'.

He added: “The NHS has enough to worry about without further issues with staff being unwell when it may have been prevented.

“We know there is a financial incentive for NHS trusts to get their staff vaccinated but I would hope the health need and protection it offers would be more than enough to persuade people.”