Exclusive: RCGP divided over need for flu jab ad campaign

Senior members of the RCGP are split over the need to advertise the seasonal flu jab in England, after one claimed failure to do so will harm uptake rates and see GPs blamed for it.

Dr Maureen Baker: 'There does not seem to be any hard evidence that campaigns increase uptake in high-risk groups.'
Dr Maureen Baker: 'There does not seem to be any hard evidence that campaigns increase uptake in high-risk groups.'

Last week, public health doctors voiced anger over the DoH's decision not to run a national campaign in England this winter, saying it could cost lives.

RCGP health protection lead Dr Maureen Baker, who leads on flu for the college, said: 'While campaigns can raise awareness, there does not seem to be any hard evidence that they increase uptake in high-risk groups.'

But the RCGP's immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos told GP: 'If the DoH does not go out with an early campaign for influenza vaccination, it will have to go out with a late campaign, as happened last year.'

He said GPs should not be blamed if there is a degree of 'apathy' among patients. 'The purpose of such a campaign is to inform and encourage flu vaccination. Without it, the job may not be well done, and GPs should not be blamed for that,' he warned.

The government was heavily criticised last winter for not running a national ad campaign early in the season.

Although uptake rates were normal by the end of the season, by December rates were down several percentage points on previous years.

Former RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field had told The Guardian it was ‘ill-advised’ not to run the campaign.

At the time, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey had said: ‘People do not seem to have been taking this year's seasonal flu seriously enough and I think an awareness campaign early on could have helped.’

Yet, earlier this month GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall, BMA negotiator on flu planning, had said there was little evidence that pricey TV campaigns are value for money or effective at increasing uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine.

The Scottish government will launch its campaign on 3 October. Campaigns are due to start in Wales and Northern Ireland by the end of this month.



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