VULNERABLE patients can expect a "bad winter" for flu, a leading doctor has said.

The warning, made by Great Western Hospital's most senior doctor, comes as thousands of hospital staff are vaccinated for the virus.

Dr Guy Rooney, medical director at Great Western Hospital, said: “The flu jab is so important, especially as it looks like it will be a bad winter.

“We need to protect our friends, our family, and our patients from this deadly virus as soon as possible.”

It is predicted that around 3,000 staff at Great Western Hospital who work with patients will receive the flu jab.

The annual vaccination is designed to prevent people from contracting the virus, which can prove deadly to the very young or very old.

A number of teams at GWH have their own peer "vaccinator", the hospital said. This individual was trained to give their colleagues the flu jab.

By getting vaccinated, staff would reduce the risk of spreading the virus around the hospital.

Flu can affect even very fit people, causing fever, chills, headaches, coughs and a sore throat. Complications from the virus can lead to more serious illnesses, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Hospital staff have been offered the vaccination for many years, but health chiefs says it is more important than ever before that people get the jab this year.

Hospitals in Australia and New Zealand witnessed a bad flu season earlier in the year, with 70,000 cases in Australia alone.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has warned hospitals to prepare for a “pressurised” flu season. He said that the NHS was reviewing the experience in the Southern Hemisphere, where hospitals had to turn away new patients and people faced lengthy waiting times.

He told an NHS conference last month: “The signs from the Southern Hemisphere winter have been that flu has been much higher and it has been the variety that puts the most pressure on the old people’s services like care homes.”

The flu jab is offered free to children over two, pensioners, pregnant women, those living in long-stay care facilities or care homes and carers.

The vaccination can be administered at a GP surgery, some local pharmacies and by midwifery services.

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