Prime Minister David Cameron said the DoH was considering central procurement of flu vaccine after local shortages. The GPC said GPs were best placed to order flu vaccine for their patients.
GP consultations for flu-like illness reached 98.4 per 100,000 in England and Wales by 2 January, which remains above the seasonal average. Fifty people have so far died flu this season.
By last week, 783 flu patients were in critical care. In last year’s pandemic, 393 patients had been hospitalised with swine flu by this date.
Mr Cameron said the government needed to look at the way vaccines were ordered and whether changes needed to be made to the process.
But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said he didn’t believe there were was a need to move to central procurement.
‘What is needed is to build on the current system – that actually works very well – but give legal permission for practices and PCOs to share stocks,’ he said.
GP Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs, criticised the DoH’s handling of the flu outbreak as ‘too laid back’.
He said that many GPs had no local access to vaccine despite DoH assurances that England has sufficient supply. ‘If there is ample supply [of vaccine], there’s been a dearth of information for how this can be obtained,’ he said.
Bristol out-of-hours GP Dr Ray Montague said services had been stretched to the brink over the Christmas period, which he said had been ‘the worst on record’.
‘It was very uncomfortable,’ he said. ‘We only coped because of the massive dedication to service of medical staff.'
The GPC has urged practices to use 'whatever vaccine they have' to vaccinate vulnerable patients against flu before ordering swine flu vaccine from central stores.