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Promoting infection prevention and control should happen all year round, but it is particularly vital around winter time.
At this time of year everyone suffers from the usual sniffles, coughs and colds. With a dispersed workforce, infection can so easily be spread from one person to another, one household to another. But the people we work with are the most vulnerable and frail in our community. There is a huge responsibility on providers to get it right and strive to protect both the workforce and the client group and consideration must also be given to the potential impact on service users due to staff absence as a result of flu.
All employers have a responsibility to offer and promote the Flu vaccination. The Department of Health Code of Practice on the Prevention and Control of Infections reminds employers of their responsibilities:
“These are to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that your employees are free of and are protected from infections that can be caught at work and are suitably educated in the prevention and control of infections”
This includes ensuring that work based policies and procedures in relation to the prevention and management of communicable diseases including immunisation, are in place.
The Department of Health Seasonal Flu Plan for 2013/14 advises that the flu vaccination given to staff that provide personal care acts as a beneficial addition to good infection prevention. As well as reducing the risk to clients of infection, there is evidence that reducing flu infection amongst staff leads to reduced absenteeism.
Promoting the flu vaccination for our front line staff can prove challenging. To have a good level of uptake you need to impress upon staff the benefits of vaccination. Being off sick when the sickness could have possibly been prevented is usually a good selling point!
A colleague from another provider was telling me about a particularly disastrous 2 week period after the majority of her staff were vaccinated and took unplanned absence stating that the vaccination had caused ‘flu like symptoms’. With this in mind you may want to consider staggering the roll out of vaccinations over a period of a few weeks.
The cost of vaccinating your workforce is not cheap and prices can vary between £7 and £10 per person depending on who you ask. I know many providers are working with extremely tight budgets already (I won’t mention pensions!). My advice is to ask around local pharmacies and supermarkets to find the best rates they can offer for group vaccinations of 10 /50/ 100 + staff. Some may even offer to come to your workplace for free – another selling point for staff.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t leave it too late!