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NHS England staff must explain if they refuse to have flu jab

Health workers in England who refuse to take up the offer of a free flu jab will be asked to explain..

Health workers in England who refuse to take up the offer of a free flu jab will be asked to explain why they do not want to be vaccinated.

The measures have been introduced in an effort to cut sickness rates and protect patients over winter.

Members of staff who decline the jab could be moved away from critical areas if they work with vulnerable patients.

Last year saw the worst flu season in a decade but only 64% of staff received the flu vaccine.

When it comes to vaccinating staff there are significant variations between different NHS Trusts.

Last year, more than 90% of staff at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, run by the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, received the flu jab.

Head of occupational health Phil Denney says it is vital that as many staff as possible are protected against flu.

"The flu jab for me is absolutely the most important thing we can do in the NHS," he says.

"It means we are not only looking after the staff, we're looking after their families and we're looking after the patients that we serve.

"And we're also helping to prevent hospital admissions at the front door."

At the Royal Blackburn, the push to vaccinate as many staff as possible includes not only front-line workers, but everyone else who keeps the hospital functioning.

Staff in the hospital's laundry wash 100,000 articles – sheets, blankets and medical scrubs – each week.

It is a busy seven-day-a-week operation and if the team was to be hit by flu there could be serious repercussions, so they are also vaccinated.

However, other trusts face very different challenges.

Ambulance trust struggles

The East of England Ambulance service operates over a wide area, and crews spend much of their time on the road.

According to figures from Public Health England, only 45.1% of staff at the trust received a vaccine last winter.

In an effort to improve that figure a greater number of vaccination sessions are being held in more areas to make it easier for paramedics and support staff to receive a flu jab.

The service's medical director, Dr Tom Davis, says part of the battle is educating staff about the consequences of not getting vaccinated.

"Healthcare professionals not getting immunised can increase the risk of our patients getting the flu," he says.

"So absolutely one of the things we want our staff to consider is the impact on their vulnerable patients, especially if they choose not to have the flu jab."

Some people simply cannot get vaccinated because, for example, they may have an allergy to the eggs that are used in the production of the flu vaccine.

And while it is not compulsory for health workers to have a flu jab, NHS bosses see this as a way of shoring up the service ahead of what could be another tough winter.

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A collar might help prevent sports-related concussions: Study

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like ..

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like soccer and football, they could also increase their risk of brain injuries. Helping to prevent these injuries, a new neck collar has shown promising results in protecting the brain.

The specialized collar, developed by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, applies pressure to the back of the neck. This pressure allows the artery in the neck to safely backfill the brain with blood, turning the blood into a cushion that makes it less likely for the brain to move upon impact.

The idea for the collar was born out of “biological mimicry,” Dr. David Smith, a visiting research scientist at the Children's Hospital who led a study that tested the collar, told ABC News.

Essentially, Smith and his colleagues looked to nature to solve a medical issue. “If a woodpecker could repeatedly hit its head and not sustain any head injury, why couldnt this be applied to humans,” Smith said.

The study involved 75 teen girls ages 14 to 18 who played for two local high school soccer teams. Only one team received the collars, and then they played soccer. Both teams were asked to undergo brain scans at the beginning and end of the season, as well as during the off-season.

The scans showed that while the brains of the team that hadnt worn the collars showed signs of damage from head impacts, the brains of the team that had worn the collars remained the same.

The results are encouraging considering that even minor impacts over the course of an athletes career can have long-lasting effects on their cognitive functioning.

Concussions have emerged as a major health concern across the United States, according to the American Academy of Physicians. Emergency departments report more than a million visits annually for traumatic brain injuries, most of which are concussions.

Womens soccer is the third most common cause of concussion in the U.S., and its estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year.

There is a debate as to whether the changes shown in the brain scans can result in long-term cognitive decline. However, the areas of the brain that were affected in this study are involved in behavior, personality, expression, decision-making, and long-term memory. (more…)

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Baby box safety doubts raised by experts

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets de..

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets despite a lack of evidence on their safety, experts warn.

The cardboard boxes, which come with items like clothes and blankets and can be used as a bed, are offered to new mums in Scotland and parts of England.

The Royal College of Midwives wants the scheme rolled out across the UK, saying it offers a "more equal start to life".

But experts have raised concerns about how safe the boxes are to sleep in.

Writing in a letter to the BMJ, Prof Peter Blair and colleagues say that, as the evidence stands, the boxes should only be used as a temporary bed if nothing else is available.

The boxes, which come with a mattress, have routinely been given to every expectant mother in Finland since the 1930s.

Scotland started offering the free boxes to new parents last year, while some NHS Trusts in England have had pilot and full schemes in place for up to two years. The boxes are not offered by health bodies in Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Royal College of Midwives says the boxes can reduce the likelihood of babies sleeping unsafely, either on a surface like a sofa or with parents who smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs, and would particularly benefit those born into deprived environments.

However, Prof Blair and colleagues, including representatives of the cot death charity Lullaby Trust, said there was a lack of evidence into how safe the boxes are for sleeping in.

Compared with cots, bassinets and Moses baskets, it is harder for parents to easily see their babies when they are sleeping in them, they warned. (more…)

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Contaminated blood victims ‘on the breadline’

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal “lost everything” and “had to live on the breadlin..

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal "lost everything" and "had to live on the breadline" as they struggled financially, the chairman of the public inquiry says.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office, Sir Brian Langstaff said "decisive action" was needed over the support available.

There is a variety of schemes running across the UK.

Sir Brian said he was concerned about what he heard during the preliminary hearings, which started last month.

The inquiry is expected to last more than two years and is looking into how thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV, and the impact this had on their families.

It will also examine whether there has been any attempt to cover up the scandal.

In his letter to Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Sir Brian wrote: "You should be aware that there were considerable concerns during the preliminary hearings about access to and variations in financial support and psychological support, and also concern that not everyone who was infected has been identified.

"During the Commemoration people were heard asking 'where is the compassion?' and describing how they had 'lost everything', had to 'live on the breadline' and 'feel betrayed'.

"Throughout the preliminary hearings there were repeated calls for financial assistance which fully recompenses individuals and families for the losses they have suffered.

"One of the legal representatives said: 'Recently there have been changes to the way in which these funds are administered, but any suggestion that this represents proper compensation for the hurt they have, they are and will continue to suffer, is met with anger and indignation.' (more…)

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