Posted: 11 October 2017
Viv Patel, Pharmacist at Gibson Pharmacy in Bradford, discusses the need to protect some of the more vulnerable, but least obvious people in our community from flu – our care staff.
So, flu season is upon us again. Whilst GPs and pharmacies are busy rallying around protecting our communities from the next strain of the influenza virus, what about those unsung heroes in the care sector who are busy looking after others? Shouldn’t they be on our list of priorities too?
I’m talking about the many thousands of care staff up and down the country that need protection against catching or spreading flu, so that they can continue to carry out those vitally important care roles. As a community of health and care professionals we have a duty of care to ensure that all care staff, who are equally vulnerable, are protected from flu.
Flu is very different to the everyday cold. It can confine even the healthiest of people to their beds. For older people or those with long-term health conditions, the effects of flu can be even more severe, or even fatal. The flu vaccine helps to protect staff, families and vulnerable service users.
If you’re a care home provider, registered manager or nominated individual, you’re probably already aware of your duty of care to your teams. This should include offering them access to the annual seasonal flu vaccine. It makes both common and business sense. It not only keeps your workforce healthy, but it ensures that the threat of flu is reduced, ensuring business continuity through reduced flu-related sickness. This is particularly important during the winter period that can be one of the most strenuous and harshest seasons of the year in healthcare.
As a community pharmacy, we adopt a joined-up approach and have regular contact with our neighbouring care home providers. We provide healthcare and medications advice, as well as a well-established seasonal flu service. By working directly with our own regular patients and the care sector, we try to dispel any myths linked with the vaccine; the most common being “I’ll catch flu if I have the vaccine!”
We aim to reassure care providers that offering their staff the flu vaccination service is a small investment in protecting themselves and the wider health of our communities. We find that the response from our local care providers is generally positive, but there still needs to be greater awareness of the benefits of vaccinating care staff against flu. This is why the NHS Employers’ flu fighter campaign and Skills for Care’s important promotion in the care sector is really welcome and much-needed.
Care home owners will either have access to a flu voucher scheme or pay directly for the service; dependent on the local authority. To simplify things, we offer a flexible, home visit vaccination service to our local care teams; something we’ve offered for the last three years. This offers greater convenience for them and eliminates the burden from staff having to find time to be vaccinated.
We make the process as simple and convenient as possible. We normally offer two small group information sessions prior to vaccination to offer reassurance and the chance to talk about the facts, why it’s useful and about any potential side effects. A quick risk assessment clarifies whether each member of staff meets criteria for vaccination. We then vaccinate, if they’re eligible. They wait five minutes or so to ensure they feel no ill effects and they can go straight back to work.
Simon Kainth, owner at Pollard House Care Home in Bradford said:
We have a close working relationship with Gibson Pharmacy. They make it easy for me to ensure that my staff are vaccinated against flu. I would urge other care services to seek similar services in their area.
Last winter, we noticed a marked decrease in flu-related sickness over the winter period so business continuity was much better. The benefits are fantastic to us as a business and to our service users. It's a win-win for us.
Spread the word of not spreading the flu! Follow us on social media @skillsforcare #flu #flufighter
For more information visit the NHS flu fighter website.