Reaching the forgotten flu fighters

Every autumn, staff working on the frontline of the NHS form an orderly queue, roll up their sleeves and have their annual flu jab. Such enthusiasm to be vaccinated reflects a general consensus that flu can be very nasty and, in some cases, fatal. In fact, who could disagree with the rationale – that if healthcare staff don’t get vaccinated, they could pass the virus on to their patients, some of whom will be particularly susceptible to developing complications. And of course, who will look after the patients if healthcare staff go down with the flu and are too sick to care for them?


So if everyone agrees that there are lots of good reasons for vaccinating healthcare staff then what about the ‘other NHS’? What about the unpaid workforce of carers looking after people who are old and frail or sick or disabled? Shouldn’t they be offered a free flu jab too? Come September, shouldn’t every GP practice in the country invite carers along to their flu clinics and give them the same protection as healthcare assistants, practice nurses and GPs?

In terms of carers being eligible for a free flu jab, they’ve been entitled to one for quite some time now. In fact, every year, Public Health England sends out a letter to GP practices confirming which of their patients should be vaccinated and carers are definitely on that list. So why are so few carers being vaccinated or under the impression they have to go and buy one privately?

Some carers have told us that when they’ve requested a free flu jab from their GP practice, they’ve been asked to “prove” that they’re a carer. Which begs the question: if someone “pretends” to be a carer and gets a free flu jab as a result (hardly the most thrilling reward for telling fibs, in my opinion), just how big a problem would this actually be? Is it really such an issue compared to the benefits of vaccinating the 10% of patients on your average GP practice register who are carers and will, therefore, be “telling the truth”?

Another reason carers aren’t having a flu jab is that not all of them identify with the label ‘carer’. So leaflets and posters in GP practice waiting rooms offering free flu jabs for carers’ may not do the trick. “Are you looking after someone?” may be a better approach than “Are you a carer?”. Often, what’s helpful is for someone who’s aware of how much care you’re providing – someone you know and trust – to give you a bit of a nudge.

And so this year, Carers Trust has partnered up with NHS Employers and is asking their target audience of healthcare staff (and community nursing teams in particular) to have a word with carers, suggest they have a flu jab and signpost them to support. With the help of few basic resources, (including Carers Trust’s contact details so that carers can also find out what help’s available to them from their local carers organisation) NHS staff now have a quick and simple way to make a real difference to the seven million people who provide even more hours of care each week than the entire NHS.

Last but not least, by taking carers into account when GP practices place orders for vaccines and send out letters inviting patient to their flu clinics, hopefully fewer carers will have to have to battle to be flu fighters in future.

Julia Ellis is Development Manager for Primary Care and Community Reach at Carers Trust



December 1, 2014 - Posted by | Health | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on A Carers World and commented:
    I had to fight for my flu jab as for some bizarre reason they have me stopping caring for my dad in march last year. But lucky my dad had an appointment straight after me, so is pretty obvious that I am my dads carer. But it is something we all need, we may not be a health professional but our job is to care and what would happen if I became ill, I would still have to some way look after my dad.

    Comment by maywaterdragon | December 9, 2014 | Reply

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