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Hidden carers missing out on flu vaccinations

By Lilian Anekwe

An average practice will have as many as 700 carers hidden on its register, but few are identified or targeted with the flu vaccination to which they are now entitled, an analysis concludes.

Researchers found that only half of carers overall, and just a fifth of those not eligible for a vaccine through other routes, had received the vaccine in the past two years.

The study, conducted in Wales, emphasised the size of the task presented to GPs when carers were added to the at-risk groups for flu, particularly given few carers are aware of their eligibility for vaccination.

Practices could be missing out on an average income of more than £2,000 in fees for vaccination of this high-risk group.

The survey, which will be formally presented at the Health Protection 2007 conference in Warwick next month, revealed 58% of carers were not aware they were eligible for the vaccinations. Fewer than half (48%) reported being offered it by their GP, and 46% had received one in the past two years.

Among carers who did not fall into other categories for eligibility such as age or chronic illness, uptake was as low as 21%. No child carers were vaccinated.

Dr Daniel Thomas, head of surveillance at the National Public Health Service commu-nicable disease surveillance centre, who led the research, called for the Department of Health and general practice to raise awareness and publicise the availability in a similar way to the campaign in over-65s.

Dr Thomas conceded identifying and vaccinating carers was difficult but said: 'Now there are no supply issues they should be given the jab.

'Nobody knows who is a carer. In Wales we calculated there are around 340,000 people who care for others. But GPs do not have a register of them.'

He added: 'In terms of pub-licity there are still things that need to be done to make sure uptake is as good as it could be.'

The analysis, conducted by the Crossroads Caring for Carers charity, comes at the same time as a recommendation from the Scottish Executive to alter campaigns to attract more of the at-risk groups, and for the JCVI to make future recommendations in time for implementation.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said: 'Sometimes we miss carers who are not family members or who are registered with another practice. And with long-term condition patients you can forget to ask about the carer.'

Carers in numbers

• Six million carers in the UK

• Twice as likely as general population to be sick or disabled

• 680 carers on an average practice list

Carers were added to flu vaccine campaign withouth proper support for GPs Carers were added to flu vaccine campaign withouth proper support for GPs

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