By Daniel Martin
Just one in 10 NHS staff willing to have swine flu vaccine putting patients at risk
Patients could be put at risk because as few as 10 per cent of NHS staff may volunteer to have the swine flu vaccine, managers warn.
Doctors and nurses are shunning the jab because they believe the virus is mild and there is only a slim chance they will get the disease.
But NHS bosses say their reluctance could lead to needless deaths during the expected second wave of the disease as staff pass the virus on to frail patients and those with compromised immune systems.
And if staff are unprotected from another onslaught of the bug, sickness rates could lead to cancelled operations.
The situation has forced the Department of Health to order all NHS organisations to ensure frontline staff get immunised against the disease.
A poll by Pulse magazine showed that 49 per cent of GPs would reject the jab; and last week a Nursing Times survey showed that 47 per cent of nurses were definitely not going to have the jab, while just 23 per cent said they definitely were.
Ian Dalton, the NHS’s national director of flu resilience, has told chief executives and boards to maximise the number of workers having the jab.
He wrote in a letter: ‘We all know that uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine among NHS staff is traditionally low.
‘It is an NHS board responsibility that we do not find ourselves in this position with the swine flu vaccine.’
Many NHS staff are reluctant to have the vaccine because they are concerned the jab has not been sufficiently tested.
One chief executive said: ‘In my hospital, if nothing changes then it could be that 10 to 20 per cent of staff have the swine flu jab.
And a medical director at another hospital said: ‘The word on the street in NHS staff circles is that the vaccine is no good and you shouldn’t bother with it.
‘Nurses in particular worry that there may be side-effects, that corners have been cut in producing the vaccine and that the generally mild nature of the virus means they don’t need to take it.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Frontline healthcare workers will be absolutely crucial in the height of a pandemic. Without them, patient care will suffer and the NHS will be stretched.
‘Getting the swine flu vaccine will protect them and their patients.
‘All NHS organisations will be working hard to ensure that all eligible staff have the choice to protect themselves and their patients from swine flu by having the vaccine.’