“I thought I would die,” said hospital Group CEO Jacqueline Totterdell, in an emotional video appeal to staff to get vaccinated.

The former paediatric nurse – who has worked for the NHS for 40 years – spent three weeks in hospital in 2019 when she fell seriously ill with flu.

Jacqueline, Group CEO of St Georges, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group, was very close to being admitted to intensive care. Now she is highlighting her experience in a bid to encourage others to have their vaccines this winter.

“If I hadn’t had that vaccine I wouldn’t be here today,” says Jacqueline in the video message sent to all 17,000 staff.

“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.”

Flu vaccination is safe and effective and is offered every year through the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill. It gives the best protection against flu.

About 25,000 people die of flu every year in England. This winter, it’s thought it 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, and as they and the wider NHS continue to respond to Covid.

Jacqueline 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, and find out more on how to book here.