NHS staff who refuse to have a flu vaccine are risking the lives of chronically ill and frail patients, a leading doctor has warned.

Dr Ben Marshall, pictured, a consultant respiratory physician at Southampton General Hospital, said the failure of more than half of all frontline staff in England to take up the vaccination was “unacceptable”.

“Influenza can be life-threatening for patients with chronic illnesses, immunodeficiency or frail conditions,”

he said.

“Therefore it is crucial staff have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their colleagues, who would take the brunt of their absence from work if they contracted flu but, more importantly, to protect their patients who might not be able to withstand the effects of the virus.”

Currently 43 per cent of frontline staff at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust are protected.