Staff immunisation levels at NHS Tayside hospital wards affected by this year’s influenza outbreak were among the lowest in Scotland, a report has revealed.
Wards at both Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary were closed to new admissions in February this year following an outbreak of seasonal flu.
A small number of patients were said to have been hit by the virus.
But a report by NHS Tayside has now revealed that the uptake of optional staff flu jabs in the affected wards was lower than expected.
The report said: “It was noted that there had been a low uptake of staff flu vaccinations in the wards that had been affected by the influenza A outbreak. NHS Tayside had one of the lowest levels of staff immunisation in NHS Scotland and there had been detailed discussion over a number of years to try to improve on this.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said that the vaccines are “of paramount importance in keeping patients safe”.
She said: “It’s not mandatory that staff need to have them, it is an individual choice, and if they don’t have it then there is not a lot we can do.
“These vaccines are there to prevent infection, but people are a wee bit frightened about side effects, which you can understand. But you can also understand the need for keeping patients safe while they are in hospital.
“For them to become mandatory, there would need to be agreement between the trade union and the staff.
“The staff need to live with the consequences if something happens to someone when they don’t have the vaccine.”
Lucy Denvir, NHS Tayside public health consultant, said that it had been noted nationally that the vaccine used to cover the public during this year’s “influenza season” had not been as effective as in previous years.
But she added: “NHS Tayside is committed to the seasonal influenza vaccination programme for staff as part of its responsibility to protect patients and the public, as well as minimise pressure and disruption to services over the winter period.
“NHS Tayside works hard every year to encourage staff to take up the offer of a free flu jab to protect themselves and their patients, communities and families from the influenza virus. Staff are offered vaccination at a wide range of venues and times across the area.”