GP leaders condemn 'shambolic' handling of swine flu pandemic

The handling of the swine flu pandemic in Northern Ireland has been condemned as 'an absolute shambles' by its GPs.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Brian Dunn said Northern Ireland's department of health, social services, and public safety (DHSSPS) must be 'brought to account' for refusing to negotiate with LMCs and then accusing GPs of profiteering.

'Some practices began vaccinating children on the promise from the DHSSPS that terms would be negotiated, yet when it came to negotiating the vaccination of children there was no flexibility on the imposed directed enhanced service (DES),' Dr Dunn told the 2010 Northern Ireland LMCs meeting. An agreement could not be reached over who would vaccinate young children.

Northern Ireland's GPs achieved the highest uptake of vaccinations, with 86 per cent of at-risk adults (under 65) vaccinated. It had the highest rate of infection of the four UK countries and did not have a flu hotline.

Motions were passed calling for a review of the handling of the pandemic and congratulating GPs for maintaining normal services.

Dr Peter Beckett, treasurer of Southern LMC, said the groups vaccinated by trusts rather than GPs, such as young children, 'did not fare as well'.

Dr Brian Patterson, chairman of Northern LMC, said the imposition of the DES also raised questions about how much power had been devolved to the health department.

'Do we have devolved health care? Or do we just have to do what Westminster tells us to?' he said.

Dr Dunn said he had been unable to speak out about the vaccination process earlier for fear of undermining public confidence in the government during the pandemic.

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