Community practitioners

The cover of Vital Signs, Vital Images a booklet for community practitioners

Vital signs, Vital issues: Recognition and prevention of meningitis and septicaemia. Help for community practitioners.

Vital signs, Vital issues was developed in response to requests from community practitioners for help in recognising meningitis and septicaemia, and with talking to parents about vaccination.

Practitioners said that they were regularly faced with misplaced anxiety and suspicion about vaccines, and need information to deal with this. The resulting booklet addresses these concerns, aiming:


  • to assist early recognition of meningitis and septicaemia;
  • to inform about meningitis vaccines and the diseases they prevent;
  • to help practitioners reassure parents about vaccine safety.
  • A pilot version of the booklet was sent to the entire spectrum of community nurses, including practice nurses, health visitors, public health nurses, and school nurses, inviting feedback on the resource.

    Feedback was extremely encouraging, with an overall approval rating of 5.56 out of a possible 6. Although there were a few criticisms, the great majority of comments were overwhelmingly positive.

    'This is a timely resource with so much myth and anxiety about meningitis and vaccinations in general.'

    'Well presented, user friendly, informative, invaluable Practice Nurse book.'

    'Excellent resource to aid understanding and enable practitioners to give succinct answers to often asked questions.'

    Respondents made a number of valuable suggestions for improvement which the Foundation used in producing the final version, presented here.

    In the booklet, the recognition/action section is based on the RCN-endorsed Vital Signs for Frontline Nurses card, written by Linda Bailey and Dr Nelly Ninis who used findings from the Meningitis Research Foundation funded research project, Health Care Delivery and the Outcome of Meningococcal Disease in Children. Undertaken by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the research evaluated the diagnosis and treatment of every child who died from meningococcal disease over a 15 month period. It highlighted the need for systematic observation to recognise the early signs of serious illness.

    The prevention section of the booklet was written by Linda Diggle, Principal Research Nurse, Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford, and Linda Glennie of Meningitis Research Foundation, with the help of an expert panel of nurses and others with an interest in immunisation issues.

    The booklet has received the endorsement of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and Fiona Smith, Adviser in Children's and Young People's Nursing of the RCN, said: "Vital signs, Vital issues provides an up-to-date evidence based information resource on meningitis vaccines and vaccine safety which will be an important tool for community nurses in restoring and maintaining public confidence in vaccines. It is an excellent comprehensive booklet, which the College is delighted to endorse."

    The booklet was initially published in January 2005. The fourth edition, presented here, was published in September 2009, and includes a revised and expanded question and answer section on reassuring parents about vaccine safety, as well as new information on the impact of pneumococcal vaccine and modifications to vaccination recommendations.

    An edition for the Ireland, endorsed by the Irish Nurses Organisation, was published in December 2005. In preparing the Ireland edition, the Foundation was assisted by health professionals throughout the country, including those at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

    The booklets are provided here as Adobe Acrobat documents, in a form which is easy to read. The printed versions come in an A5 format (148mm X 210mm).

    If you would prefer for the printed version of the booklets to be sent to you free of charge, contact your local Foundation office.

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