UK & World News
NHS Staff Who Refuse Flu Jab 'Irresponsible'
Patients are being put at risk because so many doctors and nurses refuse to have the flu vaccine, Sky News has been told.
The Department of Health says hospitals should vaccinate 75% of staff to protect patients.
But just 40 of more than 150 hospitals across England met the target, according to official figures.
And at King's College Hospital in London just 30% came forward for the vaccine.
Dr Ben Marshall, consultant chest physician at Southampton General Hospital, said staff who refuse the vaccine are "irresponsible".
"The impact of us being off sick with influenza during a particularly busy time of year, namely winter, is having a huge impact on safe patient care," he said.
"We also need to protect our patients because we may unwittingly carry active influenza at a low grade level and pass on the infection to patients."
Even staff treating highly vulnerable patients refused to have the vaccine in extraordinary numbers.
At Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital vaccination rates were only 40% and at the Royal Marsden cancer hospital - where patients have severely impaired immune systems - they reached just 49%.
The national average was 54%.
Once the virus is on the wards it can spread quickly.
Just last month at the Leicester Royal Infirmary six children in the high dependency unit developed swine flu. Three had to be isolated.
The source could have been a visitor, but the figures reveal just half the staff have been vaccinated.
Failure to hit the 75% government target could prove costly to hospitals.
The Department of Health told Sky News that only in "exceptional circumstances" would they be considered for a share of a £250m windfall to help with A&E pressure next winter.
It added: "Uptake is currently at its highest level ever. However, it is clear there is more to do."
Some hospitals have managed to engage staff.
Birmingham Children's Hospital convinced 86% of staff to have the jab in a campaign that was fronted by boxer Evander Holyfield.
Nurse Ruth Wall, who leads the hospital's flu fighting team, took to the wards to vaccinate staff while they worked.
She said: "We are all here to look after the children. None of us want them to have the flu."