Having flu vaccination this winter will make ‘massive difference’ to NHS strain, chief nurse says

Carolyn Fowler, director of nursing at the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust. Picture: NCHC

Carolyn Fowler, director of nursing at the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust. Picture: NCHC - Credit: Archant

A chief nurse has said getting a flu vaccination this winter will be crucial in helping to ease the winter strain on NHS staff.

Carolyn Fowler took over as director of nursing in September at the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCHC) and worked with the other executives to lead its response to the pandemic through its incident command centre.

Like other health and social care organisations, the trust is working on its winter response to ensure support for staff in the wake of further winter pressure caused by a possible second wave of the virus.

She said the trust was encouraging the public to get a flu vaccination, which would support the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (NWCCG) to reduce the need for hospital admissions during winter.

Meet the team at work testing in Norfolk’s care homesMrs Fowler said: “Getting the flu vaccination, that is going to make a massive difference to the health emergency.

“It is one thing doing it once. Most major incidents are done, but this isn’t finished. That preparation for the winter is where we have got to support our staff.

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“I have never known anything like it in over 30 years in my career as a nurse.”

She has continued to lead communication across the trust and work with external partners, and this week welcomed back some staff who had been shielding.

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Mrs Fowler said: “We worked very closely together - it was important to be consistent for staff and for patients across Norfolk. Sometimes it took interpretation [of the guidelines] to get the best impact and doing the same things. It felt more connected... The community staff did an amazing job, they were adaptable and flexible.”

The mum-of-two was among a group of staff separated from their families during the pandemic - she lived at their home near Aylsham, while her husband David and dog Oscar remained in Hertfordshire to look after relatives.

She would arrange to cook dinner at the same time as her husband and chat over WhatsApp, and met at Thetford for a socially distanced picnic. The couple also spent their 34th wedding anniversary apart for the first time.

The director of nursing used her spare time to deliver medication around the community, adding it was a huge moment when the news broke those living on their own could form support bubbles.

Mrs Fowler, who has two grown up children Harry and Molly, said: “We thought it might be for a month or so and it was three. I haven’t lived on my own and I had never had to work as hard and have more responsibilities than I have ever had.”

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