Hospitals across the UK are bribing NHS nurses with coffee and shopping vouchers to entice them to get their flu jabs

Nurses have said such incentives “didn’t necessarily make a difference” as staff had been put off by the fact that the vaccine had limited effectiveness.

However, more than a third of them are still refusing the vaccination despite claims by so called experts that a flu pandemic is a bigger threat to the UK than terrorism.

The Mail Online reports: Jeanette Jones, a pandemic flu expert from Bristol, said hospitals have tried different incentives to improve uptake of the jab. ‘We invent different ideas, we play and do different things. We even managed to con Costa into giving us vouchers to give free coffee or tea and things to our staff,’ she said. ‘Surely we owe it to our patients, our colleagues to take up the opportunity to have the vaccine to protect everyone.’

Doctors and nurses were told they had a ‘duty’ to have the jab, with this flu season widely acknowledged as the worst in seven years. Three times as many patients were hospitalised with flu this year – and more than 250 died – resulting in the cancellation of thousands of operations. Nice guidelines on boosting flu vaccination rates say hospital bosses should think about using staff incentives, such as entry into a prize draw on receiving a vaccination.

In 2014, Public Health Wales gave shopping vouchers to NHS organisations to encourage staff while the offer of an extra day off saw 2,500 staff sign up at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust in 2011.

Up to the end of February this year, uptake in England was 68.7 per cent – over six per cent higher than last year’s total. But Sarah Smith, who works in infection control at a hospital in Derbyshire, said staff uptake at the district general hospital had been 88 per cent this season – without the need for bribes.

They used social media and targeted staff on different shift patterns to ensure the widest coverage. She explained: ‘Roving clinics, static clinics, working across shift patterns, the peer vaccinators like me going at 6am jabbing anyone who could sign a consent form and stand still for two minutes. This kind of stuff works.

‘We didn’t need to use sanctions and coffee and doughnuts to get people vaccinated.’

Earlier this year, the country’s top doctor, Sir Bruce Keogh, suggested the flu jab should be made compulsory for staff.

Rod Thomson, deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, was recently working in the national resilience forum which looked at the key threats facing the UK. He said: ‘The two items at the top of the list – one was a catastrophic loss of power across the UK either due to terrorism or severe storms but the top of the list was flu pandemic and has been for the last few years.’ Referring to vaccinations, he urged colleagues to ‘keep in mind that this is the highest threat to the UK’.