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Nurses least likely to get flu jab

Nurses and midwives are the least likely group of health workers to get vaccinated against flu, new figures suggest.

Data from the Department of Health shows 30% of nurses, including hospital nurses and midwives, got vaccinated last year, despite a Government drive to encourage vaccination. This compares with 43% of GP practice nurses, 38% of GPs and 37% of other doctors.

It comes after Dame Sally Davies, the Government's chief medical officer, said doctors and nurses were "selfish" for not getting vaccinated and had a responsibility to their patients to get the flu jab.

She told The Times last week: "Why we want frontline workers to be vaccinated is to protect them so that they can continue to do their service, (and) so they don't infect patients who by definition are already vulnerable. It is very selfish not to be vaccinated. I wouldn't want to be responsible for infecting my patients."

Addressing health workers, she added: "You owe a duty to your patients. I don't see it as responsible behaviour if you haven't been vaccinated."

Overall, the number of healthcare workers getting the flu jab in England increased from 26.4% in the 2009 winter to 34.7% in 2010. But most nurses and midwives - who work with critically ill patients and pregnant women - did not get protected.

The new data also shows that only 25.2% of youngsters aged six months to two years in at-risk groups were vaccinated last winter, compared with 51.7% of those aged 16 to 65. Those at risk include people with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease, and the over-65s.

Research suggests people in at-risk groups are around 11 times more likely to die from seasonal flu than those with no underlying health problems.

Dame Sally said: "NHS staff face increased pressure over winter, especially if there is a severe flu season. They keep the NHS running and it is vital that they protect themselves, their patients and families from the potentially serious effects of flu that they are exposed to over the winter period. It is never too early to start thinking about flu. So as NHS staff return from their holidays, I urge them to plan ahead and get vaccinated."

Public health minister Anne Milton said: "I urge all of our dedicated nurses, especially those who work with the sickest patients and midwives working with pregnant women, to protect themselves and their patients from flu."

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