Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has urged his constituents who are at risk of getting flu to get their free vaccine jab before winter sets in, as statistics provided by NHS England indicate that 17,215 people in West Berkshire and 28,373 people in Reading, both local authorities covering his constituency, missed out on protection last year as they were not vaccinated. The statistics show that Flu vaccination rates continue to climb across the country, but remain lower than ideal in many areas.
Alok’s call comes as the Chief Medical Officer of NHS England warned last week that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England - around 6,000 of which are people with existing heart and lung conditions.
The figures show that just under 2.9m bed days were lost to flu and pneumonia last year in English hospitals, up almost 280,000 from the previous year – an 11% increase.
The NHS England statistics for the two local authorities of West Berkshire and Reading last year state that:
Alok Sharma said: “We can feel now that Winter is really beginning to set in. Getting the flu can be bad enough for even the fittest of us, but for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular it can cause serious health problems.”
Alok Sharma continued: “Getting the flu jab is free and easy, and provides the best chance of avoiding the flu. I would therefore urge all those eligible, including for the first time, all care home staff, to speak to your GP or local pharmacist and get your vaccination booked in!”
NHS England claims that this year around 21 million, more people than ever before, will be offered the vaccination. Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over the age of 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school.
A £10m programme will also see a free vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist. NHS England’s figures show that older people are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital with flu if they live in a care home, with emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumping by 16% last year alone to around 29,000.
The national drive marks the start of the Public Health England and NHS England’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
NHS England’s National Medical Director for Acute Care, Professor Keith Willett, said: “Hospitals and GPs are preparing intensively for this winter, and we would remind people of the importance of having a flu vaccination. There are 21 million people eligible this year, but last year eight million people missed out and that is something we can all definitely change.”
More information on eligibility for the flu jab, and other tips on staying well this winter, can be found at www.nhs.uk/staywell.