It may sound early to start writing about winter flu, but it’s as early as October that the seasonal flu peak can start and most employer driven vaccination campaigns take place in Autumn. For those with medical conditions such as heart or respiratory disease, those who are pregnant or over the age of 65 and for some others such as carers, the vaccine is available free via the NHS and is recommended.
For front line health care staff and social care workers the vaccination is also recommended and the employer has a responsibility to arrange and pay for such. In the NHS, a financial incentive scheme has been introduced to encourage NHS Trusts to improve the uptake of vaccination, whilst it is a personal decision whether or not to have it, healthcare workers work with patients whose immunity may be low and flu can be a life threatening illness. Many NHS Trusts were very successful last year in improving vaccination uptake, with many achieving over the 75% target set by NHS England. I can honestly record here that this was a significant achievement and congratulations to those that lead it!
For other employers, there is often healthy debate about whether offering the flu vaccination makes financial sense, the medical literature contains research showing cost-benefit, but also other research refuting such. Much depends on circumstances, uptake rates and the type of flu occurring that year. Some staff groups will argue that employers should offer the vaccine, partly as a benefit, and partly to help protect staff, but as stated above those that need it most will get it offered free by their GPs. Many of the illnesses recorded on sick notes (and particularly those self-certified for less than five days) are not actually flu, but one of the very many other viruses that commonly give respiratory symptoms and a more mild flu-like illness (flu vaccination makes no difference to your chances of getting these).
However, if you are an employer who either needs to offer vaccination as an employer of healthcare or social care workers, or chooses to provide for whatever reason, it is important to have systems to efficiently offer the vaccination and record its uptake. This is often done using simple databases and rarely is the opportunity taken to monitor and compare subsequently who does or doesn’t get flu (or takes absence attributed to such!). This is important data, understanding the return on investment for workplace health interventions is vital in supporting future decision making for the employer and can also help staff understand the benefits provided.
This is one of the reasons that we have the capability in the Empactis suite to integrate and use data more effectively. Organisation manager interacts with Health Manager to identify those who need or are eligible for a health intervention such as vaccinations, Health Manager then has the capability to make the correct arrangements and ensure the intervention is given in a timely, efficient and clinically reliable way and scheduling functionality can ensure that if the event is one requiring a repeat vaccination (such as an annual vaccination) that this is monitored and triggered in the future. The value of our data analysis capability is that we can then track outcomes and understand whether the intervention added the value required. This is usually only available in academic research and often requires taking data from different systems, our platform improves accuracy and reliability and is exciting in its capability of tracking outcomes.