Despite social care staff being eligible for the flu jab, uptake has remained low. In Wakefield only between 2 per cent and 7 per cent of staff have come forward for their jab in recent years. But that is now changing thanks to work by the council’s public health team and its partners.
What was done?
In 2018 a working group was set up by Wakefield’s Health Protection Sub-group to look into the reasons for such low uptake and what opportunities there were to improve it. The group includes representatives from the council’s public health and social care teams along with officials from the local CCG, and regional teams from Public Health England and NHS England.
Discussions showed that there were a number of common barriers affecting uptake.
- attitudes and beliefs – care home workers had questioned the effectiveness of the vaccine and some thought it would give them flu or that they did not need it because they were not old enough
- access – staff were not always given time to have the vaccine or had to fund it themselves or reclaim the costs
- leadership and training – there was an absence of a championing role, no advice or training given to staff and limited communication of key messages.
The working group reviewed and collated best practice tools and resources, which were disseminated to all homes across the district. Members also undertook a simple scoping exercise to explore potential models of provision including a simple cost analysis.
Pharmacists were commissioned by the council’s public health team with the help of NHS England winter funding, to target a select number of care homes as part of a pilot programme to get staff vaccinated last winter.
The pharmacists contacted the care homes in advance, providing information about the importance of getting immunised against the flu virus. The care home managers had the flexibility to arrange clinics based on staff availability and working patterns to ensure maximum uptake. Some 27 homes were prioritised, with 22 per cent of staff coming forward to be vaccinated under the scheme.
Wakefield Health Protection Manager, Emma Smith, said: “Raising awareness about the benefits of having a flu vaccination and providing free vaccinations where staff work has made a real difference to local uptake. It’s about removing as many of the barriers to getting vaccinated where ever possible.”
But the impact of the pilot seems to have been even greater than that. Ms Smith said: “Providing more information to care sector organisations seems to have also prompted staff to have their flu vaccination elsewhere. The records show that another 18 per cent visited either their GP or a local pharmacy to have their flu jab.”
This winter Wakefield has sought to build on the progress it made last year by rolling out the scheme to the majority of care homes in Wakefield and also the neighbouring Kirklees borough, which shares the infection prevention and control team. In total around 130 care homes are being approached. 18 Increasing uptake for vaccinations: maximising the role of councils
What else is happening?
The local infection prevention and control team – part of public health - has also supported domiciliary providers, said Ms Smith. “As part of our winter campaign the team attended the local domiciliary provider network meetings, to promote winter messages including the flu campaign.
“Domiciliary staff work across the community and are rarely together in one place, which often makes it difficult to ensure staff are aware they are entitled to a free flu vaccination. “At one particular meeting the discussions subsequently prompted one manager of a domiciliary organisation to talk to their staff about the importance of getting the vaccine and they ended up arranging for a pharmacist to come to their office and ran a ‘jabathon’ – 29 members of staff were vaccinated in the end.”
Health Protection Manager