Sunday, 24 October 2021

Patients urged to get flu jab before winter

Patients urged to get flu jab before winter

PATIENTS are being urged to have a flu jab to avoid putting further strain on the health service this winter.

Surgeries have been offering the vaccine to eligible patients since the middle of September but there has been extra pressure due to delivery delays and the demands of administering coronavirus booster jabs.

Like last year, people aged 50 to 64 are entitled to a free flu jab but only after the over-65s and vulnerable patients have been contacted.

The Hart Surgery in Henley has run out of the flu vaccine due to supply problems and its planned clinics have had to be rescheduled.

Practice manager Sarah Moberley said co-ordinating the flu jab programme was proving to be a challenge.

She said: “The uptake has been good but due to vaccine supply problems, we have only been able to invite a limited number of patients, mostly the elderly.

“The Hart Surgery currently has 94 patients who have been diagnosed with covid in the past 28 days, so we are by no means out of the woods on that front. If both flu and covid surge this winter it will put enormous pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals, both of which are already seeing unprecedented workloads.

“Flu should never be underestimated. Getting your vaccination will reduce the likelihood of hospitalisation, serious complications and even death as well as help reduce the pressure on the NHS, which may well be dealing with a recirculation of covid.”

The surgery has been trying to administer flu jabs alongside covid boosters as well as giving opportunistic jabs when people visit for other reasons.

Mrs Moberley said: “We have around 3,600 patients eligible to be vaccinated at the surgery, requiring three different types of vaccine according to age.

“It’s a significant financial outlay for us to buy the vaccines and it is difficult to estimate the amount of vaccine we require at the best of times as we have to make an educated guess about uptake levels and how many patients might have their vaccine elsewhere, like their place of work.

“The deliveries for the order we placed last year have been postponed or reduced with very little notice — we believe due to lorry driver problems — and even now we have no idea of when our next delivery is, or how much vaccine we will be getting when it finally comes.

“It makes planning very hard. Contacting hundreds of patients to rearrange appointments and working additional  hours to deliver the covid booster and flu programmes simultaneously has put enormous added pressure on our already overloaded staff and we apologise to any of our patients who have been inconvenienced because of this.”

Sonning Common Health Centre has 2,400 patients in the over-65s and at-risk group and just over half of these people have already received a flu jab. A further 1,200 patients aged 50 to 64 will be contacted soon.

Practice manager John Lisiewicz said the initial uptake had been good but could be better among the at-risk group.

He said: “Because of the delivery issues, we did have some delays, but we are hoping to get to the under-65s soon. The 50-to-64 years group has been a focus this year and last year.

“Everything is stretched at the moment but we certainly have measures in place to cope with the change in the volume of people requiring attention.

“We have continued face-to-face appointments throughout but those have increased as the restrictions have eased.

“Because of that, we have had to put on extra clinical staff just to keep up with the demand. We review that constantly. The choice is there for people to go to pharmacies and drop-in clinics.

“The initial issue was the delay in the delivery of the flu jabs, which threw us and other practices. It meant we couldn’t start as early as we would have liked but we are catching up.

“We have another big clinic on November 6 and then we will try to capture 50- to 64-year-olds. We are also doing opportunistic jabs when they come into the practice or when they come for a booster jab.

“We were wondering if we could do booster jabs
and flu clinics at the same time but because of the delay that became logistically impossible.

“It is encouraging but there is still a little bit more work to be done. We are getting a similar uptake as in previous years and we can only use that as a guide.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say