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Personal invitations ‘boost flu vaccination rates’

Using a lead staff member to coordinate the flu campaign, sending personal invitations to eligible patients and having midwives give vaccines to pregnant women can increase a practice's flu vaccination rates, research reveals.

The wide-reaching study of 795 GP practices identified seven strategies that increased the number of high-risk patients who were vaccinated, as well as a few which didn't work.

Researchers said their study – funded by the Department of Health - was the first to provide firm evidence of the strategies GPs could use to boost vaccine uptake and increase their earnings from the flu campaign.

Having a lead staff member to plan the flu campaign raised uptake among at-risk patients under the age of 65 from 46% to 54% - an increase of almost a fifth. Providing a written report of practice performance also increased uptake rates in under-65s, by the same amount.

Sending a personal invitation to all eligible patients and only stopping vaccinations when QOF targets were reached were each found to raise uptake by 7 percentage points, from 71% to 78%, for at-risk patients over 65.

Lead members of staff sorting through practice IT systems to identify eligible patients raised vaccination rates from 74% to 78% in patients over 65.

And among practices where community midwives gave flu vaccinations, uptake in pregnant women was 45%, compared with 41% for who where midwives did not.

But a couple of interventions did not make a statistical difference – offering vaccination at weekends or before 08:00 or after 18:00 on weekdays; and staff having a positive attitude towards being vaccinated themselves.

Study leader Dr Laura Dexter, a virologist at University of Sheffield medical school, said the study was ‘the first to provide statistical evidence to support the validity of approaches', many of which she said were ‘common sense'.

Dr John Etherton, a GP in Rotting Dean near Brighton, said midwives administering vaccines was a ‘fantastic' idea: ‘People are petrified of doing anything during pregnancy, but these women need these vaccines. Midwives are in the perfect position to educate mums to be because they trust them.'

Dr Una Coales, a GP in Stockwell, south London, called the study's findings ‘useful': ‘Any strategy that can increase uptake rates will prevent deaths – and should be implemented.'

She added that the public should be given a choice of buying flu vaccines: ‘People pay for travel vaccines and go to their GP to get them, so why not flu vaccines?'


BMJ Open 2012, online 11 May