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DoH leaves GPs in vacuum over flu vaccine supplies

GPs hit out over lack of advice on how much they should order this year

The Government has failed to complete its 'urgent review' of flu vaccine supplies in time to inform this year's orders, Pulse has learned.

The review, which is considering the possibility of a switch to central purchasing, is ongoing despite its 'urgent' launch in a blaze of publicity in November.

This will leave GPs without any guidance on how to estimate the supplies they will need in six months' time.

Practices ­ many of which have already begun to place orders ­ have been left to decide whether to over-order to cover increased demand and risk being left with unused stock or once again face being held responsible for any shortfall.

A department spokesperson said: 'There are no changes to the ordering system for this flu season. We will have to wait and see what the review recommendations are before we can comment on any changes which includes whether or not central purchasing is an option.'

Officials and ministers provoked fury last winter when they blamed flu vaccine shortages on under-ordering by GPs and use in the worried well.

Dr Stephen Fox, chair of Wigan LMC, said: 'The Government have had six months to do something and they have not done anything. The vast majority of GPs have already ordered. If we did not we would have missed the boat.

'The Government are all mouth and no action. They accused GPs unfairly as they themselves changed the rules at the last minute and put GPs in an embarrassing position.'

Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Tibshelf, Derbyshire, advised practices to be very careful not to over-order: 'A lot of people came in this year who might not have otherwise, which may change once the bird flu scare dies down.'

Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC, said: 'My advice is to order what they would normally order. The risk will be if you order too much you might get left carrying the can.'

Dr Russell Walshaw, chief executive of Northern Yorkshire and Eastern Lincolnshire LMCs, said central purchasing would be 'hopeless, a disaster, brewery and parties come to mind ­ it is the last thing we would want'.

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