Blog - Fiona Couper - CWP chief pharmacist and associate director for medicines management

15 January 2020

My name is Fiona Couper, CWP chief pharmacist and associate director of medicines management. I am also the chair of the Flu Planning Committee for our Trust’s flu campaign for 2019-20. 

As we enter the New Year, I’d like to thank all at #TeamCWP who have already had their flu jab to protect themselves and the people we care for. I would strongly urge all of our remaining patient-facing staff to get their vaccination at the earliest opportunity. Flu can be debilitating to many, but for those with an ongoing health issue it can be life-threatening. 

Community matron Sarah Ellison recently told her story of how terrifying flu was for her and I’d like to thank Sarah for sharing. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch Sarah’s powerful message here

Each year, as an organisation, we are set a target by NHS England to vaccinate our staff and I am acutely aware of the difficulties we face. This year, the target is 80%. 

One challenge we face is that we have so many sites to get vaccines to. Colleagues are also often in and out of peoples’ homes, or clinics, so that can make it harder to ensure the vaccination gets to everyone. But, it also makes it more critical that they do have the vaccine. The safety of those who access our services, and who come into contact with our staff, is of paramount importance.   

Influenza does not discriminate between physical health and mental health, or community settings or inpatient settings. It can affect each and every one of us regardless of background, circumstance or age. It is also known that people living with a mental health condition can actually be more susceptible to contracting flu, as they can be more physically vulnerable generally. Put simply, it is incredibly important for all health workers to get their vaccination. 

Also as health workers, it is our priority to treat those who become unwell. However, as set out in the NHS Ten Year Plan, it is also our focus to help to prevent people getting poorly in the first place. It is my belief that it is our duty to act as examples to the population we serve by practising what we preach. I see every day the care and compassion of all of my colleagues at #TeamCWP so I know that this is a view shared across our organisation.  

Nobody likes getting vaccinations. I don’t. They’re not high on anybody’s wish lists! But they have the power to do great good. The flu vaccine is no exception. I would urge all of my colleagues who are yet to get the vaccine to do so at the earliest opportunity. It can be tempting to put it off, to think that you’ll do it later, but each time you do, you run the risk of compromising the health of yourself, those you care for and your friends and family. 

Anne Wallace (PA to Fiona Couper) describes overcoming her needle phobia

I’ve been terrified of needles since childhood. Mum says it started when we took my younger sister Jane to be inoculated.  Jane cried so much that I not only tried to bite the nurse for hurting my baby sister, but after that I was a nightmare when it came to any injections. I remember having my BCG jab at High School. 

After the initial stamp on the wrist, I spent every night at home with the hoover firmly attached to my wrist, in the vain hope the lumps would raise up. Of course that didn’t work and on the day of the actual jab I recall being chased around the school, before being cornered by several teachers and the school nurse in the Chemistry lab! 

Since then, I’ve avoided any type of needle wherever possible. I’ve never been able to overcome the fear. I’ve always wanted to have a flu jab, but just couldn’t muster up the courage.

Last week at the Flu Planning Group meeting I heard the story from Sarah Ellison (which you can read on the intranet), and decided that this year I was going to have the jab.  With an 86 year old mother to consider, a partner who’s due to go into hospital for an operation and a daughter about to do her GCSEs, I don’t want to be the one in the family to potentially spread the flu virus. 

In a very emotional state I asked Julie Spendlove if she would give me the vaccination.  I explained my fear but Julie was amazing – she listened and really seemed to understand.  So, I had my jab!  I was in a real state, but Julie calmed me down and now I wonder what the fuss was about.  

I can’t say I’ll ever enjoy having an injection but I’m proud of myself and hope that I can convince others with needle phobia to at least consider being vaccinated. Special thanks to Julie – you’re a superstar!

For CWP staff: 

To find out where you can your vaccine, keep an eye on CWP communication channels. For more information, please visit the staff intranet page.

Text size A- A+
Contrast options