Barts and The London NHS Trust provides general health services at three London hospitals. By providing a voluntary flu jab, the Trust has been able to reduce sickness absence, benefiting all staff and the Trust itself.
In 1999 the Chief Medical Officer advised of a possible flu pandemic. Barts and The London NHS Trust’s occupational health unit. advocated a programme of voluntary flu immunisation for the Trust’s staff. This has been repeated each autumn since 1999.
Lower levels of ill health among immunised staff
‘Not only does the scheme improve the general health of staff and save money by reducing the number of days lost due to sickness, but it also has benefits for our patients as it lessens the risk of them contracting the virus while being treated in our hospitals’
Charles Gutteridge, Medical Director
In the year the Trust evaluated the initiative, the immunised staff suffered an average annual sickness absence rate of 2.4 days per person. This compared with an annual rate of 3.2 days per person for the non-immunised employees.
The average cost of absence was approximately £400 per day (direct and indirect costs), so the saving per immunised member of staff was £318 per person per year. As 683 employees had the jab in 2001/2 this saved the Trust around £217,000 in sickness absence.
The cost of giving the jab was approximately £8,000 for the vaccine itself and the nurses’ time in administering it. The time staff spent receiving the jab cost around £15,500. So, in 2001/2 the total cost of the initiative was £23,500.
The savings of around £217,000 heavily outweigh the costs of £23,500. As most of the benefit is felt in winter months, the initiative paid for itself in less than one month.
The human resources director supported the initiative by enabling staff to take time away from duties to receive the vaccine and by providing means for the jab to be ‘advertised’ to staff.
Employee and safety representatives from several trade unions, including Unison, took the role of helping to spread the message to colleagues of the availability and benefit of being immunised.