Health boss who spent three weeks in hopsital with flu urges public to get vaccine

A hopsital group CEO spent three weeks in hospital and was almost admitted to intensive care when she fell seriously ill with flu in 2019.

Jacqueline Totterdell, Group CEO of St Georges, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group and former paediatric nurse, spoke out about her harrowing experience to encourage others to get their flu vaccines this winter.

In an emotional video appeal Totterdell said: “I thought I would die. If I hadn’t had that vaccine I wouldn’t be here today.”

Hospital Group CEO Jacqueline Totterdell who almost died from flu. Image credit: Jacqueline Totterdell, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

As a long-term asthmatic and part of the Difficult Asthma Service at St George’s, getting the flu was almost a life sentence for Totterdell who has worked for the NHS for 40 years.

She added: “Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking flu is just like a heavy cold – I’m proof that it is much more serious, particularly for people in high-risk groups.

“I ask you – plead with you – to have your flu jab and your Covid jab. 

“It will protect you and your family, and keep you safe. I had had the jab – and without it, I don’t think I would be here today.”

About 25,000 people die of flu every year in England, according to the Health Protection Agency’s centre for infections. 

It’s feared that this winter could be a particularly bad flu season based on the situation in Australia, where it strikes first.

It also comes at a time when St George’s, Epsom and St Helier’s hospitals are already very busy, as they and the wider NHS continue to respond to Covid.

Flu vaccination is safe and effective and gives the best protection against flu. 

It is offered every year through the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill. 

Totterdell said: “Winter is incredibly busy for us – and people often ask what they can do to help the NHS.

“I say please play your part by having your flu and Covid vaccines, and by taking steps to stay safe and well. 

“You can also help us and our exceptionally-hardworking staff by using NHS 111 or a pharmacy first when you need medical attention but your illness or injury isn’t serious.”

The vaccine is offered at GP surgeries and some pharmacies. 

It is given free on the NHS to adults who are aged 50 or over, have certain health conditions, and are pregnant – as well as other groups. 

You can see a full list on the NHS website here, and find out more on how to book:

Feature image credit: Jacqueline Totterdell, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

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