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Deadlock with GPs over child swine flu jabs

BMA says government failed to free-up staff time to support campaign

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 09 December 2009

The government has failed to reach an agreement with GPs for a national vaccination programme to protect children under five from swine flu.

The vaccine campaign for children aged between six months and five years will start in the run up to Christmas, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has announced, but it will be up to Primary Care Trusts to put local plans in place to vaccinate the group.

NHS Employers had been in discussion with the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners’ Committee but failed to reach a national agreement for this group to be vaccinated through GP practices.

GPC chair Laurence Buckman has written to all GPs announcing it had not been possible to reach a UK-wide agreement on the second phase of an H1N1 vaccination programme.

"We sincerely wanted to be able to reach a national agreement with the UK governments about a process for vaccinating the under fives against swine flu," he explained, adding: "The government would not support adequate measures to help free up staff time.

"At the busiest time of year for general practice, with surgeries already dealing with the additional work of vaccinating the first wave of at-risk groups, we felt this was vital in order to ensure this next phase could be carried out quickly.’

"We know many primary care organisations have already been in contact with GPs in their area to talk about making local arrangements."

PCTs will now have to determine whether vaccinations will be offered through other local GP practices, their directly managed staff (health visitors, district nurses and so on) or by arranging with alternative providers such as community or hospital paediatric services or pharmacies.

Parents of children in the priority group will receive information about swine flu vaccinations as soon as these plans have been finalised.

Andy Burnham said: “It is disappointing that we have not been able to come to a national agreement with GPs to vaccinate children from six months to five years old. But we are now getting on with the job and asking local health trusts to put local plans in place so that vaccination of these children can begin seamlessly.

“The supply of vaccine is increasing and we should therefore be able to meet the demand for vaccine and begin vaccinating children before Christmas."

The under five age-group has been identified as the next priority group for the vaccine because they are more likely to be hospitalised if they fall ill with swine flu. They also have high rates of admission to critical care and some deaths.

The decision to vaccinate this group is supported by advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the UK’s independent advisory board on vaccines. 

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