FLU-fighting efforts are being stepped up at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in a bid to ensure the county does not miss out on crucial funding.

Last year just 32.6 per cent of frontline staff at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had their winter flu jab.

But bosses are targeting a massive improvement this time around – not just to improve patient safety but for fear of being barred from receiving A&E bailout funding from the Government next year.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged £500 million to help struggling A&E departments over the next two winters.

But while Worcestershire Acute is receiving £1 million of this year’s £250 million pot, Mr Hunt has said the remaining cash for 2014/15 will only be shared by trusts whose staff flu vaccination rates reach at least 75 per cent this winter.

Last year less than one in four doctors and nurses at the acute trust had the flu jab – just 23.9 per cent.

Uptake among support staff was better, at 46 per cent, but chief executive Penny Venables said all the stops are being pull-ed out to produce much better results this year.

Regular clinics are being held, particularly in ‘high risk’ dep-artments such as A&E and paediatrics, while ‘flu champions’ are being trained on each ward to help deliver the jabs.

“We cannot force people to have it but it is something we are really pushing this year,” said Mrs Venables, herself one of the first staff to receive the jab.

Trust board members were told this week that this winter’s flu jab programme has got off to an encouraging start.

Bev Edgar, director of human resources and organisational development, said uptake is more than 20 per cent higher than at this stage last year.

National figures show that less than half of frontline NHS staff had the flu vaccine last year – something Mr Hunt wants to address.

He has admitted that 75 per cent is a “tough” target but poin-ted out that about 27,000 people spend time in hospital because of flu each winter.

“One of the simplest ways we can support hospitals under pressure and protect patients is to target flu,” he said.