10 December 2020

People living with a severe mental illness who are eligible for a free flu jab this winter will be encouraged to get immunised by a new guide produced by Centre for Mental Health and Rethink Mental Illness on behalf of the Equally Well UK collaborative.

The guide is one of three published by Equally Well UK with support from Mind, Public Health England and NHS England and Improvement to support uptake of flu vaccinations among people living with a severe mental illness.

While not everyone with a severe mental illness is eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination, many are because of their age or because of a long-term physical illness such as asthma or diabetes. The guide sets out who is eligible for a flu jab and how to get it.

There are companion guides for GPs, pharmacists and workers in mental health services. All three guides were produced in partnership with experts by experience and leading clinicians working with Equally Well UK, including GPs and psychiatrists.

Equally Well UK project manager Emma Bailey said: “Flu is a serious illness that can have serious consequences for people with long-term conditions. And it can be especially risky in combination with Covid-19. People with a severe mental illness are much more likely than average to have long-term physical illnesses so flu vaccination is important and potentially life-saving. We hope that local health services will reach out to people with severe mental illness to ensure those who should get their flu jab are encouraged and feel safe to get their vaccination this winter.

“We are also delighted that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation today announced that people with a severe mental illness will be included in the priority groups for the Covid-19 vaccine. This is a welcome recognition of the greater risk people with a mental illness face from Coronavirus.”

Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for the NHS said:“It’s vitally important that those who are most vulnerable this winter protect themselves against flu and those with severe mental illness can be especially susceptible to complications from flu. I’d urge everyone that is eligible to have the jab to give them peace of mind in what has been a more challenging year than usual.”

You can download the guides here.