Respiratory expert warns staff who refuse flu vaccine 'risk patient lives'

Woman blowing her noseA leading respiratory expert based at Southampton's teaching hospitals has warned NHS staff who refuse to have a flu vaccine are "risking the lives" of chronically ill and frail patients.

Dr Ben Marshall, a consultant respiratory physician at Southampton General Hospital, said the failure of more than half of all frontline staff in England to take up the vaccination was "unacceptable".

"Influenza can be a troublesome infection for the average healthy person but it can be life-threatening for patients with chronic illnesses, immunodeficiency or frail conditions," he explained.

"Therefore, it is really crucial staff across the NHS have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their colleagues, who would take the brunt of their absence from work if they contracted flu but, more importantly, to protect their patients who might not be able to withstand the effects of the virus."

Dr Marshall spoke out as University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust continues its drive to increase the number of staff who receive the vaccination, where currently 43% of frontline staff are protected. 

"With all eyes firmly fixed on care, compassion and consideration in the NHS right now, I find it really quite shocking and frankly unacceptable for staff to avoid vaccination simply because they do not want it – that must change," he said.

"It is for that reason I am working hard to increase take up in Southampton and, hopefully, push other trusts to follow our lead and bring senior clinicians on board to instil in their staff just how important vaccination is."

Dr Marshall, who has recorded a video aimed at encouraging staff to make the time to have a vaccine, added: "I ask all clinical staff to take up the vaccination. It is safe, it is recommended by the Department of Health and I and all of my consultant colleagues have had it with no ill-effects."

Posted on Monday 2 December 2013