Flu fighting frontline NHS staff on Wearside are urging members of the public who are at risk from the illness to take up their offer of a free NHS vaccine as soon as possible.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has launched its annual staff vaccination programmes which will see over 10,000 workers being offered the free vaccine to help protect patients in their care.
Flu can be particularly dangerous for patients who are already in hospital and other care settings and who are much more vulnerable to infection and its severe effects.
With winter on its way, the message from NHS medical and nursing leaders is for all those who are eligible, staff and patients, to get protected as soon as possible.
Occupational health teams will be administering the vaccine to staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and in community health venues in Sunderland, in the coming weeks.
Last year, about 3,300 Sunderland staff were vaccinated with the trust aiming for a much higher uptake this year as the region’s NHS braces itself for an extremely busy winter.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust deputy medical director Dr Paul McAndrew: “Every year, we offer the flu vaccine to our staff as a way of reducing the risk of them contracting the virus and transmitting it to their patients or families at home.
“It is extremely important in the interests of patient care that our frontline healthcare workers such as doctors, midwives and nurses, who are more likely to be exposed to the influenza virus through their caring role, have the vaccination.
“By protecting themselves and their vulnerable patients, they are also protecting their colleagues and their own families and they keep themselves healthy during the winter when NHS services, particularly urgent and emergency care, come under great pressure.”
City Hospitals Sunderland, which is working together with its South Tyneside equivalent as part of the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, is also encouraging all staff to have the immunisation to help reduce sickness absence and make sure that patients get the best possible care throughout the winter.
With the NHS braced for a pressurised flu season this winter, Public Health England has stressed the importance of being vaccinated against flu.
It has estimated that an average of 8,000 people die from flu in England each year.