Exclusive: Talks on payment for UK's largest ever flu campaign begin

GP leaders are negotiating the profession's role in one of the UK's largest ever vaccination campaigns, as practices prepare to deliver swine flu jabs alongside seasonal flu vaccines.

Pregnant women are a priority group for swine flu jabs
Pregnant women are a priority group for swine flu jabs

The first doses of (A)H1N1 vaccine will be available in August, with production increasing over the autumn and continuing for 12 months.

Two jabs are required for protection and a total of 60 million doses will be available by the end of the year - enough for GPs to vaccinate half the population of England.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC lead negotiator for pandemic flu, said the GPC was discussing with the DoH how to manage the vaccination programme.

He confirmed the GPC was seeking additional funding: ‘We require all our costs to be covered, but it is not just an issue of money.

‘We are discussing the practical issues and whether the vaccine has been licensed.’

The Northern Ireland government has so far refused to fund the £55m cost of the work.

A letter from GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman to all GPs says elements of the new GMS contract could be suspended in local swine flu hotspots.

Last week, a letter from Dr David Salisbury, DoH director of immunisation, was sent to PCTs informing them of the priority groups for vaccination.

These include pregnant women in their second and third trimester, children aged three to 16, patients aged 65 and over, and GPs and other health and social care workers.

Eventually the entire UK population will receive two doses of the swine flu vaccine.

In addition, GPs will be expected to carry out the seasonal flu vaccination programme from this September. The DoH has commissioned research to determine whether swine flu and seasonal flu jabs can be administered at the same time.

If they cannot, some patients may need to visit their GP three times for full flu protection.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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