• NHS England asks royal colleges to demonstrate how they will improve flu vaccine uptake
  • Comes after Sir Bruce Keogh suggested there could be mandatory jabs for staff
  • Upcoming evidence review highlights link between flu vaccine uptake and mortality rates

NHS England is calling on the royal colleges to provide an action plan to encourage uptake of the flu vaccine among staff, after a clinical study made a direct link between vaccination and mortality rates.

In a letter sent on June 22 and seen by HSJ, the commissioner has informed the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nurses and others that it has commissioned Public Health England to advise on the flu risks to patients from unvaccinated staff.

It comes after Sir Bruce Keogh, then medical director of NHS England, said in January that a “proper discussion…about mandatory jabs for doctors, nurses and other frontline NHS staff would be sensible”.

The letter adds that a forthcoming evidence review from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence highlights a direct link between staff vaccination rates and patient mortality rates.

It also says that evidence “clearly shows” that 70 per cent of confirmed influenza infections are asymptomatic, and asymptomatic staff may pass it on to “vulnerable patients”.

NHS England has asked for the royal colleges to “consider this evidence” and “advise us on the actions you propose to encourage maximum flu vaccinate uptake”.

“We believe healthcare professionals have a duty to protect themselves, their patients, their colleagues and their families by being vaccinated,” the letter said.

Although NHS England said it was “pleased” that the number of care workers vaccinated against seasonal flu increased to around 69 per cent, it said there is an “unsatisfactory variation between trusts of 38.9 per cent to 92.3 per cent”.

It has requested that the colleges write back outlining “thoughts and proposals by July 20”.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said that while it encourages vaccination, it does not support “mandatory enforcement”.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: “We would particularly encourage the NHS to focus uptake in areas of the hospital where patients are at the highest risk from influenza outbreaks, such as intensive care, high dependency and transplant units.”