THOUSANDS of frontline hospital staff have not had a flu jab to protect themselves and their patients, new figures reveal.

The Society for Acute Medicine says it is concerned thousands of NHS staff across England who deal with patients have not been vaccinated.

Public Health England statistics show that 3,375 of 8,666 frontline workers at the East Suffolk and North Essex Trust were not vaccinated against flu by the end of December.

It means an uptake rate of 61.1 per cent, lower than the national average of 68.5 per cent.

Doctors, nurses, clinical staff and support workers involved in direct patient care are encouraged to have the jab.

Trusts have financial incentives for staff uptake, receiving full payment if at least 80 per cent have it, and a decreasing amount down to 60 per cent coverage, below which they get nothing.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The NHS has enough to worry about without further issues with staff being unwell when it may have been prevented.

“We know there is a financial incentive for NHS trusts to get their staff vaccinated but I would hope the health need and protection it offers would be more than enough to persuade people.”

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, said the flu vaccine is the best protection against a virus which can lead to serious illness in vulnerable groups.

He added. “It is extremely important to continue to increase seasonal flu vaccine uptake among frontline healthcare workers to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and causing serious illness in at-risk groups.”

Catherine Morgan, director of nursing at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have run a dedicated flu campaign across the trust with 67 per cent of our staff having their vaccination as of January 28.

“That campaign is still underway so we could still see more people having their jab because we know, and are well aware, flu can remain prevalent at this time of the year.

“Having the flu jab is the best way for our colleagues to protect themselves, their patients and families against flu and we actively encourage them to have it.”