The BMA has criticised the government’s insistence on linking flu vaccination rates among NHS staff with funding for winter pressures.
The association is supporting a drive led by the chief medical officer for England to encourage doctors to be vaccinated against influenza this winter.
However, it is concerned that the Department of Health has pressed ahead with its plans, announced last year, to penalise trusts that do not hit staff vaccination targets of 75 per cent.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘We support efforts to increase flu immunisation rates for healthcare staff and urge doctors to get themselves vaccinated this winter.
‘However, we continue to oppose linking uptake rates with winter pressures funding. All this will do is potentially give patients in some areas a suboptimal health service.'
Public Health England figures show that 59.3 per cent of GPs (13,618) and 54.5 per cent of all other doctors (59,958) were vaccinated in England during the winter of 2013/14.
Overall, 54.8 per cent of frontline healthcare workers received the vaccine, up from 45.6 per cent in 2012/13.
However, uptake rates varied between 33.5 per cent and 86.2 per cent.
Last year, the DH gave a total of £221m of winter pressures funding to 53 NHS trusts which were at risk of breaching the four-hour emergency medicine waiting target.
At the time, it said trusts would not be eligible for any allocation this year if the 75 per cent standard was not met. The BMA was strongly critical of this approach.
Funding on target
This week, a DH spokesperson confirmed NHS trusts had to demonstrate they had adequate plans to meet the target this year or they would not receive the funding.
NHS organisations will publish their plans soon. The DH spokesperson said of the plans assured so far, by responsible bodies such as Monitor and NHS England, no trusts will be denied the winter funding.
The spokesperson added: ‘We believe the ambition we set for trusts to achieve 75 per cent vaccinations among their staff contributed to the significant increase in vaccination rates last year, with uptake at its highest level ever.
‘However, there is more to do and all trusts need to show they have robust plans in place to achieve the 75 per cent ambition this year.’
The World Medical Association this week also launched a social media campaign encouraging healthcare workers around the world to be vaccinated.
Follow the campaign on Twitter
See the uptake rates for your area team or NHS trust
Find out why the BMA supports flu jabs for doctors
The story so far