GPs face 'impossible' HPV task

Workload warning after DoH extends HPV jabs to 300,000 girls aged 17 to 18 years.

GPs will be under 'impossible pressure' after the DoH announced that it will extend the HPV vaccination programme to 300,000 girls aged 17 to 18 from September, a public health expert has warned.

This is in addition to the routine vaccination of girls aged 12 to 13 which also begins this September in England, and the catch-up programme for girls up to the age of 18 which starts in 2009.

The girls covered by the programme's extension are those born between 1 September 1990 and 31 August 1991.

The move comes after the DoH was heavily criticised for saving £18.6 million a year by choosing the cheaper HPV vaccine Cervarix which, unlike its rival Gardasil, offers no protection against genital warts.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: 'By choosing the right vaccine we have been able to make savings, which means we can extend the programme to 17- and 18-year-olds. This could save an additional 400 lives.'

But Dr Angela Raffle, public health lead for cervical screening at Bristol PCT, said the DoH extended the programme in direct response to criticism over its choice of vaccine.

'This has been rushed out and will put impossible pressure on GPs and nurses.'

Dr Sarah Jarvis, RCGP spokeswoman on women's health, warned that extending the vaccination programme would leave GPs with a huge workload.

'Although the 12- to 13-year-olds will be vaccinated mostly by school nurses, the whole vaccination programme still creates a lot of work for GPs.

'They will have all the paperwork and bureaucracy to deal with. GPs will have to make sure that the patient notes are updated to include uptake of HPV vaccination. This is in addition to carrying out some of the vaccinations for the 17- to 18-year-olds.'

Extending the vaccination programme still does not justify the decision to use Cervarix, added Dr Jarvis.

The DoH may be saving almost £20 million a year on purchasing the vaccines but it costs about £24 million a year to treat genital warts, she said.

A spokeswoman for the DoH said that the vaccination programme for the 17- to 18-year-olds could be done in surgeries or in colleges and that it would be up to PCTs to decide how best to deliver the programme.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

HPV jabs

  • Vaccination programme extended to 300,000 more 17- to 18-year-old girls.
  • GPs will have to provide jabs and update records for patients given jabs at school.
  • DoH choice of Cervarix instead of Gardasil generated £20 million saving, but Gardasil would also prevent genital warts, which cost £24 million a year to treat.

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