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Fifty three NHS trusts in England get cash injection to ease winter pressures

But they won’t get next year’s £250m unless they boost staff flu jab uptake to 75%

Caroline White

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Fifty three NHS trusts are set to get a share of the £250 million the government has set aside to ease pressures in A&E departments this winter.

But any trust eligible for next year’s £250 million tranche won’t get it unless they can show that at least 75% of their frontline staff have had the flu jab this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Trusts will only be let off if exceptional circumstances apply and they can prove to the regulators and NHS England that they have firm plans in place to meet the target the following year.

Around 750,000 patients see their GP with flu symptoms and 27,000 people are admitted to hospital as a result of the infection each year.

Less than half of frontline NHS staff get vaccinated against flu, and in some hospitals, this figure drops to fewer than 1 in 5, despite a series of campaigns to boost uptake.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said: “Simply by having the flu vaccine, as recommended by the GMC, NHS staff can play an important role in not picking up the flu virus and passing it on to other patients – often people who are already poorly and vulnerable to infection.”

Dean Royles, who heads up NHS Employers, which has organised the national NHS staff flu vaccination campaign, said that trusts were working hard to increase uptake.

But he said: “It’ll be a huge challenge for many to get three quarters vaccinated, especially when their immunisation plans are already in place.”

In a bid to further reduce the impact of flu on NHS services, the government intends to run a national flu campaign to protect the most vulnerable, and avoid flu-related A&E visits and the vaccination programme for 2-3 year olds will get under way this autumn.

This year’s funding allocations range from £914,000 for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust to £12.8 million for Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust all stand to get around £10 million each of the total.

Trusts have been told what the money is to be spent on. NHS 111 will take around £15 million of the funds to boost the number of clinicians and call handlers at the service.

The rest will be divvied up among community services, including end of life care and hospices (£57 million), urgent care services (£51 million), and primary care services (£25 million). Around £62 million has been allocated to boost capacity in hospitals, including weekend consultant cover.

Social care will get £16 million to improve the discharge of elderly patients and prevent readmission. And £9 million will go on other measures, such as helping ambulance services and hospitals to work better together.

“This winter is going to be tough– that’s why the government is acting now to make sure patients receive a great, safe service, even with the added pressures the cold weather brings. But this is a serious, long-term problem, which needs fundamental changes to equip our A&Es for the future,” commented the health secretary.

“In the long term, I want a 24/7 service which recognises patients as individuals and looks out for them proactively,” he added.

NHS Confederation Chief Executive Mike Farrar welcomed the cash injection. "Our members have told us one of the most frustrating aspects of trying to plan for A&E pressures is not knowing how they will fund them until the bulk of winter has been and gone.

Getting this detailed breakdown in September means the NHS can put the right plans in place and get ahead of some of the pressures we know are lurking round the corner.”

The health secretary also announced plans for GP led personalised care for older patients, as part of a strategy to improve discharge and prevent readmission to hospital.

Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA's GP committee acknowledged that high quality care of older patients would help stave off inappropriate admissions to elderly care. “But the government must also realise that GP services are stretched to breaking point,” he said.

“To unleash the potential GPs are already showing in tackling the issues facing older people’s care, ministers need to roll back the bureaucratic nightmare that has been forced on GPs and expand GP, community, and social care services,” he suggested.

Paul Flynn, Chair of the BMA’s Consultant Committee added: "While investment in A&E is crucial, given staff shortages in emergency medicine money will only go so far so we need to look at the whole system to get to grips with the root causes of pressures facing A&Es.”

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