Data tracker finds low uptake of flu vaccine in social care
Social care workers in the UK are being urged to have a flu vaccination to avoid a “potential deadly winter tidal wave of respiratory conditions”. This follows estimates from the Taskforce for Lung Health data tracker which say . By comparison, 74.3% of healthcare workers are vaccinated.
The UK government has announced millions of people will be given the flu vaccine for free this year, naming it “the most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in the UK’s history”. The free vaccine will be made available to more than 30 million people this autumn and winter, millions more than received it last year.
For the first time the flu vaccine will be available free for people aged 50 to 64, along with households of those on the shielded patient list, all school year groups up to year 7, all people aged over 65, pregnant women, and those with some pre-existing conditions including at-risk under 2s. All frontline health and social care workers are also entitled to the free vaccine.
Meanwhile respiratory charities in England are urging social care bosses to encourage their staff to have the vaccination. Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have written to 29 of the country's biggest social care organisations to warn about the impact of flu in the social care setting this year if it is coupled with a second wave of COVID-19.
Care homes were heavily impacted by COVID-19 when the virus was at its peak, and it’s feared the low uptake of the vaccine among staff could cause a deadly second wave.
The Taskforce for Lung Health, a consortium of 35 including patients, health care professionals, charities and professional associations, launched the data tracker in 2019. It was created to provide a streamlined set of statistics on respiratory conditions - information which so far had been split across different organisations. The tracker makes it easier to identify gaps in data sets, and inform the Taskforce’s five year plan for lung health. Data is gathered in-house, analysed and then turned into easy to digest visuals and stories to inform people with lung disease and the general public.
Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, said: “The social care sector have already been devastated by the pandemic and we know how hard staff are working up and down the country.
“This winter could see the biggest test of our time. As many eligible people as possible need to get the flu jab to avoid a potential deadly tidal wave of respiratory conditions over the coming months which could overwhelm the NHS. Prevention is vital in protecting the most vulnerable in our society, so we urge all social care employers to do everything they can to make the flu jab a priority."
Solent NHS launches UK's first sexual health self-service
Solent NHS Trust in the south of England has become the first in the UK to launch an integrated sexual health self-service system.
The national health service trust has launched a new Personal Health Record (PHR) that will enable patients to book and amend appointments online. This will allow clinicians to triage patients digitally, saving them time. If patients miss appointments then staff are alerted via simple push notifications.
Once it's fully implemented, Solent will be able to use the system for patients to easily access to repeat contraception, postal testing kits, results and prescriptions. PHR will also be used to anonymously notify partners who could be at risk of a sexually transmitted infection.
The PHR has been designed by healthcare IT provider Inform Health. Solent hopes the system will alleviate pressure on clinics that are currently reliant on traditional methods of booking appointments via the telephone. It will also provide holistic visibility of patient data, and allow patients to self-manage their sexual health by registering on a secure website and creating their own patient record.
PHR will further support Solent’s Sexual Health Services through the creation of joined-up, electronic patient records – a key benefit according to Ynez Symonds, Solent’s Sexual Health Services’ Head of Quality and Professions: “Our patients are at the heart of everything we do, so making their lives easier and being able to drill down to see what’s happening with patients in our area, so we can effectively target services, is really important" she said.
"We previously used a system that required patients to input the same demographic information every time they needed to request a testing kit or access condoms online. We know from patient feedback that for some this was a barrier to accessing services.
"Additionally, our previous system didn’t integrate with our Inform EPR (electronic patient record), used in clinics. This meant there was no easy way to see what patients were requesting and when they were returning kits, so it was near enough impossible to obtain a clear picture, assess trends and effectively tailor our future provision."
Symonds adds that the PHR system will also help them to reduce the risks of COVID-19 infection. "Like all NHS providers, we’re focused on resetting our services. We need to continue to adapt to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission, so PHR remains a top priority for us. I see it marking a real turning point for how patients access services and take greater control of their sexual health and wellbeing. I also think PHR will play an integral role in helping us to better target health promotion through quality data delivered through system integration.”