THOUSANDS of doctors, nurses and staff at a Southampton hospital have not had a flu jab to protect themselves and their patients.

New figures from Public Health England (PHE) have revealed that 2,795 of 9,513 frontline workers at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) were not vaccinated against flu by the end of January.

It means an uptake rate of 70.6 per cent, under the national average of 72.4 per cent.

The Society for Acute Medicine says it is "concerning" that many NHS staff across England who deal with patients have not been vaccinated.

Doctors, nurses, clinical staff and support workers involved in direct patient care are encouraged to have the jab.

Daily Echo:

A spokesperson from the UHS said that they run a campaign every year, starting in October, which contains a number of initiatives to encourage staff to have their jab.

Trusts have financial incentives for staff uptake, receiving full payment if at least 80 per cent have it, and a decreasing amount down to 60 per cent coverage, below which they get nothing.

The target is measured between September and February, and the payment varies depending on the size of the trust’s contract.

The proportion of staff who had the vaccine by the end of January differed widely across the 231 trusts that submitted figures.

The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust recorded 94.7% of staff having the vaccination, while the uptake rate was just 40.9% at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, described the disparity as “worrying”.

“The NHS has enough to worry about without further issues with staff being unwell when it may have been prevented,” he added.

“We know there is a financial incentive for NHS trusts to get their staff vaccinated but I would hope the health need and protection it offers would be more than enough to persuade people.”

However, Dr Scriven added that the bulk of influenza cases for the winter season had already occurred.

A spokesperson for UHS said: "“The uptake of flu vaccination among healthcare staff at UHS this year is now just under 72 per cent and that figure will increase further as we continue our vaccination programme in accordance with national guidance.

“While our desire would be to vaccinate 100 per cent of frontline clinical staff, the vaccine is not mandatory and, although we actively encourage take-up via a number of initiatives, some still express doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine or are unsure about the justification for immunising healthy staff.

“We work hard every year to try address these issues by providing as much information as possible about the evidence-base around the effectiveness of vaccination, use interviews with senior clinicians to correct misconceptions and run large internal proactive communications campaigns."

Across England, the 72.4 per cent uptake rate at the end of January was better than at the same point a year earlier, when it stood at 68.6 per cent.