Carers: Show your badge for a free jab

Flu season is only a few short weeks away and the army of front line carers across Oxfordshire are being urged to make having a free jab a key priority.

More than 8,500 staff employed in residential care, nursing homes or with registered domiciliary care providers, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable people, are entitled to a free flu jab.

Keeping this valuable workforce fit and well is essential to easing winter pressures across the county's health and social care system.

Being immunised not only reduces the chances of carers themselves and their families becoming unwell, it also means that the health of the most vulnerable people in Oxfordshire’s communities is not compromised.

The flu is not the same as getting a cold. It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are greater for people within the ‘at-risk’ groups – for example the over 65s and those with medical conditions like heart, lung and kidney diseases, diabetes, asthma and multiple sclerosis.

Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some influenza can lead to a stay in hospital, permanent disability or even death.

All workers across the NHS will get flu jabs – meaning the immunisation of the whole health and social care workforce will make the system more resilient.

As well as workers in social care settings, anyone who receives a carers allowance, or is the main carer for an elderly or disabled person, is eligible for a free vaccination.

Oxfordshire's Winter Director Tehmeena Ajmal, who is responsible for leading a system winter team to reduce seasonal pressures across health and care services, explained: "Flu immunisation is good for you and the population too."

She added: "Flu can cause serious complications in vulnerable groups. Because the virus changes every year, new vaccines are produced and matched to the virus to give you the very best protection. Having the vaccination is the very best way that you can protect yourself from flu and limit its transmission throughout the population."

Benedict Leigh, Oxfordshire County Council’s Deputy Director of Adult Services (Commissioning) said: “Being proactive and getting immunised will mean fewer people contract flu and, as a result, that will mean fewer people becoming very sick and ending up in our hospitals.

“It also has the potential to reduce the number of delayed transfer of care patients (DTOC) because there will be capacity within the county’s care sector, so that medically well hospital patients can go on to their next stage of care, whether that’s in a care home setting or via domiciliary carers.

“Oxfordshire’s army of carers is vital to keeping the county in the best of health this winter and we want to make sure all workers with registered homes and care organisations are immunised.”

Eddy McDowall, the chief executive of the Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers, an umbrella organisation representing the county’s providers of adult social care, agreed.

He said: “We would urge all employers to continue their efforts to protect their staff and most vulnerable patients/clients by encouraging frontline social care staff to be immunised. Staff should visit their GP or local pharmacy with their company badge or other ID to obtain their free flu vaccination.

How do you get a flu jab?

As Eddy said, simply present your ID badge to your pharmacist or at your GP surgery. You will not have to pay.

Who else qualifies for a free flu vaccine?

A flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS via GPs and pharmacies for the following:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • Patients aged from six months to 65 years in clinical ‘at risk’ groups (see below)
  • Pregnant women
  • All children aged two to nine (but not 10 years or older) on 31 August 2018
  • People in long-stay residential care homes
  • People who receive a carers allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person

Am I in an ‘at risk' group?

The free flu vaccine is available to patients who have one of the following conditions: a heart problem, a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma, kidney disease, lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment), liver disease, had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), diabetes, neurological condition e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS), morbid obesity (BMI over 40), cerebral palsy or learning disability.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine 2018:

  • Children aged two to three years will have the vaccination as a nasal spray in GP practices.
  • Children in school years reception to and including Year 5 – these children will receive the nasal spray vaccination in schools from immunisation teams.
  • All other children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk from flu.

For more information on the NHS flu vaccine visit www.nhs.uk or https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/