A private care home operator is offering free flu vaccinations to those who visit its home but do not qualify for a jab on the NHS.

Barchester Healthcare - which runs more than 160 care homes in the UK - says it is offering the free jabs as a way to minimise the risk of its residents contracting flu. The company has pledged to reimburse all regular visitors aged 20-50 for the cost of having a flu jab privately.

The NHS does not generally offer flu jabs to people under 65, unless they are carers or are particularly vulnerable to the virus, such as people with asthma.

The company is also targeting its care staff and aims to have more than 28 per cent of its 11,871 eligible staff vaccinated this winter.

Safety drive

Barchester Healthcare managing director Tim Hammond said: "We know from previous research and our own pilot studies that vaccinating staff can significantly reduce the rate of illness and deaths in residents.

"We've always encouraged our staff to get the flu jab, but this year we've also taken an extra step to protect our residents, by pledging to reimburse our regular visitors ineligible for a free flu jab to have it done at their local surgery or pharmacist."