Learning how New Zealand healthcare workers are helping to beat flu

Published: 5 Apr 2017

Author: Nicola Meredith
Learning how New Zealand healthcare workers are helping to beat flu

Nicola Meredith, a nurse from Public Health Wales, has returned from a four week research trip to New Zealand, where she investigated ways of improving the uptake of the influenza (flu) vaccine among healthcare workers. In Wales in 2015-16, 47% of frontline NHS healthcare workers were vaccinated, whereas in New Zealand, uptake was 66%. Nicola’s travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, in partnership with the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

Flu is a vaccine-preventable disease which kills thousands of people each year. Vaccination is recommended for healthcare workers to protect them from catching or spreading flu, and also to protect those they care for who may be vulnerable to complications if they catch it.

While in New Zealand, Nicola visited the University of Auckland, where the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) is based, The Ministry of Health, The New Zealand Nursing Organisation, and some of the District Health Boards (DHBs) with the highest uptake of staff flu vaccination.

Across the DHBs Nicola visited, Nicola was impressed by the different, but effective, leadership styles she observed. Across locations, leadership was shaped according to the personalities and styles of individuals, the ethos of each DHB, and local intelligence, and appeared key to a strong campaign.

“One DHB utilised a systematic, structured project management style approach to their campaign, whereas another was more clinician led, and both worked very well indeed with healthcare worker influenza vaccine uptake in these two DHBs amongst the highest in the country. This demonstrated to me that a one style fits all approach is not likely to be the most effective, but that the application of sound planning that is clear, focused and supported is best applied using local intelligence for the best fit” –Nicola Meredith

Now back in the UK, Nicola has been sharing her findings with the flu team in Public Health Wales and with colleagues across other NHS Wales organisations, helping to integrate her recommendations into the national Influenza campaign. She has presented her findings to fellow members of the NICE Public Health Advisory Committee on improving flu vaccine uptake in healthcare workers, and spoken about her Fellowship at the Annual Influenza Programme Meeting in Wales and at The Public Health Wales Nursing Conference. She will also be presenting at the 14th Welsh Immunisation Conference on 4th May in Cardiff, and the NHS Employers flu fighter conference on 24th May in Leeds.    

Nicola’s Fellowship findings have also been submitted as part of the international activity mapping in the Public Health Wales International Health Strategy, which is scheduled for publication in early June 2017.

Notes to Editors

Contact: Nicola.meredith@wales.nhs.uk

The Burdett Trust for Nursing

The aim of the partnership is to improve the health and well-being of patients, a key element of the Medicine, Health & Patient Care category. The Burdett Trust makes grants in support of nurse-led projects, using its funds to empower nurses and make significant improvements to the patient care environment. For more details, see www.btfn.org.uk