Exclusive - Practices may be forced to open on weekends to give swine flu jabs

RCGP warns that practices lack the fridge space for swine flu and seasonal jabs.

Practices will have to open at weekends and run vaccination clinics in extended hours to vaccinate all priority group patients against swine flu by the end of the year, experts warn.

Despite DoH advice that swine flu and seasonal flu jabs can be administered at the same time, GPs say they cannot justify delaying seasonal jabs while they wait for swine flu jabs to arrive. In addition, most practices do not have the space to store both, they warn.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the CMO for England, has said the vaccination programme should begin in October.

He wants all 11.5 million patients in priority groups, including health workers, vaccinated by the end of December.

Individuals aged six months to 65 years in seasonal flu at-risk groups will receive the jab first, followed by pregnant women, all household contacts of immuno-compromised individuals and people over 65 in the current seasonal flu risk groups.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and a GP in Berkshire, told GP that practices would simply not be able to cope with a swine flu vaccination programme and a seasonal flu campaign in addition to treating other illnesses.

'We will have to open on weekends and have vaccination clinics in extended hours if we are to vaccinate all the priority groups by the end of the year.

'It will take much longer to administer the swine flu jabs as they are in vials and are not in pre-filled syringes.'

Professor David Salisbury, DoH immunisation director, told GP that practices will be able to reduce their workload by giving patients the swine flu jab when they attend for their seasonal flu jab.

But Dr Kassianos warned that in practice, this would be very difficult for GPs to do. 'We will receive seasonal flu supplies before the swine flu jabs become available,' Dr Kassianos said. 'We cannot afford to wait - we will have to start vaccinating patients with the seasonal flu jab first.'

He added: 'Our fridges will be full with the seasonal jabs, so we will not have any space to store the swine flu jabs when they do arrive.' He added that the DoH had failed to address the issue of fridge space.

The DoH and the GPC are currently negotiating how the programme will be delivered and funded.



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