Page last updated at 21:01 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

'Two-thirds' of NHS London nurses without swine flu jab

Swine flu jab
NHS London says take-up of the vaccine is rising

Just one in three nurses in London has been vaccinated against swine flu, the NHS has admitted.

A BBC London Freedom of Information request has shown the majority of medical staff remain unprotected against the virus.

Although swine flu rarely kills healthy adults, it is dangerous to many patients in hospitals.

NHS London insisted the vaccine take-up was "encouraging" and rising, with more than 60,000 staff having had the jab.

But figures seen by BBC London reveal the take-up has reached a plateau, with a limited increase in the numbers of staff to have been vaccinated over the last month.

In mid-December, a total of 33% of frontline staff - including dentists and paramedics - had been vaccinated.

By 18 January that figure had risen to 40%.

'Best defence'

Kelly Gibson's eight-year-old daughter Holly daughter died from swine flu last year.

Holly, who lived in Erith, on the south London/Kent border, suffered from a chromosome disorder that made her particularly vulnerable.

Ms Gibson said: "If a nurse is dealing with a vulnerable person they could be passing swine flu on to the innocent.

"They could contract swine flu and possibly die."

Swine flu has been shown to be extremely contagious, if typically mild among most people.

Currently, 38% of London's GPs and 45% of other doctors, such as hospital consultants, have received the jab.

Yet the take-up rates among NHS London staff appear to contradict the organisation's own advice.

Speaking in December, NHS London's head of pandemic flu, Dr Chloe Sellwood, said: "The vaccine is our best defence against the virus and that is why we are encouraging as many people as possible to take it."

While hosting a Downing Street reception for nurses, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said 60,000 people who work for the NHS in London had been vaccinated against swine flu.

He told BBC London: "Swine flu is a problem that many people have suffered from, and most people have come through after a few days with the treatment that is necessary, but equally of course it can be dangerous.

"Therefore we are encouraging all vulnerable groups in the population to get themselves vaccinated."

Mr Brown added: "It is voluntary but I would encourage health workers to take the vaccination if it is available to them."



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