Regulations have come into force which make it a legal requirement that prescribers order antivirals on listed medicines vouchers if patients are under 13 years old.
The 'right hand side' of the normal FP10 form can still be used, however, to authorise supply to over-13s. When using the 'right hand side', GPs should generate output as they would for a private prescription. The form should then be endorsed 'ACP' clarify that the 'right hand side' of the prescription is being used as a voucher authorising supply from an antiviral collection point and is not a private prescription.
A DoH spokeswoman told Healthcare Republic that it had decided against simply issuing guidance on the issue. It was decided that a change in the law was needed 'to ensure that GPs would feel confident that they were acting within the law in using vouchers and to ensure it was clear that no prescription charge is due in these circumstances', she said.
A joint letter sent from the RCGP, GPC and DoH explained that a safety assessment had been carried out. It was then decided that, because of the increased risks for children of this age, vouchers were preferable to FP10s for this group.
The letter pointed out that vouchers provide decision-support on dosing in relation to weight and age of children. GP prescribing systems are also not able to support selection of the 15mg/1ml solution to be used in children under 12 months, it said. In addition, antiviral collection point staff may not know when to supply the solution rather than tablets, because they are not necessarily pharmacists.
The RCGP told Healthcare Republic that the college, the GPC and the DoH were all in agreement that the new policy represented the best approach.
The DoH has sent a letter about the changes to all SHAs for onward communication to PCTs and to staff working on antiviral distribution.
The legal change only applies to England, but the DoH said that it has kept colleagues in the other UK countries informed of our approach.
The WHO has also issued new guidelines on use of antivirals. It said that healthy patients with uncomplicated illness need not be treated with antivirals. It also advised that, in areas where the virus is circulating widely in the community, clinicians seeing patients with influenza-like illness should assume that the pandemic virus is the cause.
More news from 24 August