NHS 'fears a crisis' this winter if flu jab for elderly fails to work

'We have the strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated'

Jeff Farrell
Friday 13 October 2017 16:22
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A&Es struggled last year after a vaccination programme reportedly failed to work
A&Es struggled last year after a vaccination programme reportedly failed to work

NHS bosses are reportedly “scared” that hospitals will be heaving this winter if there is an outbreak of heavy flu and vaccinations given to old people fail to work.

They have rolled out a jabs programme for the elderly in order to stave off a crisis in its service where staff and resources are already at breaking point.

But last year a similar system reportedly failed to work, and record numbers who turned up at A&Es walked away without treatment because of long delays.

Fears the NHS could be overwhelmed this winter came after hospitals in Australia struggled to cope with the worst outbreak of flu there in two decades, amid fears the same strain could strike here.

Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, said health service leaders feared hospitals would be “inundated” with flu cases in the coming months, The Telegraph reported.

Speaking in a conference in Bournemouth, he said: “We face winter better prepared than we have ever been, but more scared than we have ever been. “We have the strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with people suffering flu.”

The vaccination programme primarily targets those over 65 – but was widened to include those who come in contact with pensioners to help lower the chances of the virus being passed on.

That includes NHS staff – who will have to give a reason if they fail to “do their duty” and opt out.

The Independent has approached the Department

Others offered the jab include some one million care home staff and other social workers who help the elderly.

But a think-tank called for care workers employed directly in the homes of pensioners to be also offered the jab for free.

David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre, said: "Influenza is a serious illness which does kill.

"We are urging the Government to go further and ensure that domiciliary care workers are reimbursed when they receive the vaccine on the high street so that they too can protect the people under their care."

A review of last year’s vaccination programme found it failed to help the elderly from contracting the flu.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Dame Sally nevertheless called on anyone who qualifies to get a jab.

“At this stage in the winter none of us know how it is going to go,” she told The Telegraph. “It wasn’t very effective last year but it is our best hope. I’ve had mine.”

Australia was hit with the worst flu epidemic it has seen in more than 20 years, with more than 70,000 hit with the virus in the winter there as hospitals struggled to cope with the crisis.

The Independent has approached the Department of Health for comment but none had arrived at the time of publication.

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