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Monday 18 December 2017
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Blog: Increasing flu vaccine uptake in early 2016

Last year’s flu vaccine was ineffective and this has undermined people’s confidence in flu immunisations. As a result, many patients are just not bothering to present.

How is this year’s flu campaign going?

For many practices in Scotland uptake is below expected levels, and particularly for risks groups, such as asthmatics and pregnant women. It seems there are several reasons for the decline in numbers:

·       Last year’s flu vaccine was ineffective and this has undermined people’s confidence in flu immunisations. As a result, many patients are just not bothering to present.

·       The mild weather is lulling people into thinking there won’t be much flu around this year. However, as we know, this can change quickly and often with dramatic consequences for patients (especially the elderly and/or frail). Of course, this also means extra work for the practice team.

·       There is anecdotal evidence that not all patients have received invitations to attend and media campaigns have had to be re-run on TV and in social media.

·       Ever increasing practice workloads mean there is less time available for opportunistic immunisation in the consulting room.

·       Alternative providers with dedicated services and longer opening hours could have tempted some patients.

Naturally, this is worrying from a health perspective but it also brings concerns for practice managers in terms of reduced income and potential staff absences over the winter months. So what else could practice managers do to address this?

The most obvious tactic is to get in touch with patients directly. Depending on the number of names on your flu lists, you might consider telephoning individuals or perhaps sending texts, easier and quicker. Alternatively, an old fashioned letter is worth the price of the stamp if the patient then attends!

Renew the posters in the waiting room. Distribute copies to the local library, community centre and anywhere else your patients might congregate. Review the times of your flu clinics, e.g. are these convenient for patients – or the practice?

Encourage clinical staff to reassure pregnant women that the vaccine is safe.

Champion uptake within the practice team. We are frequently the worst offenders when it comes to putting off a flu jab but we are as susceptible as everyone else. Arrange staff flu clinics and include the GPs. If need be, remind them of their duty of care to protect themselves and their patients from infection.

Perhaps every PM’s New Year’s resolution should be to improve flu immunisation statistics in 2016?

Happy New Year!