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GPC frozen out over MMR catch-up plan

By Lilian Anekwe

GP leaders have angrily condemned the Government's failure to consult them in advance of a major £5.5m rescue package to shore up the MMR vaccine programme.

The announcement of plans for a nationwide MMR catch-up campaign last week took negotiators ‘completely by surprise', Pulse can reveal.

The Department of Health chose not to involve the BMA at any stage during development of the proposals, even though GP involvement was crucial to a prototype catch-up campaign in London, which saw a sharp rise in practice workload.

Immunisation experts warned some practices would need to set up vaccine clinics to cope with the extra work, which is unlikely to carry payment beyond usual target pay.

Under the plans, PCTs have been handed a £5.5m rescue package to drive up uptake of the vaccine to the 95% level recommended by the World Health Organization.

PCTs will receive an average of £30,000 each to immunise

all unvaccinated children up to age 18, except trusts in London, which will get £60,000 ‘to reflect the higher ratio of children requiring MMR'.

But decisions on how to spend the money will be left to the PCTs, and it is unclear how much will be spent on supporting GP practices in calling in and vaccinating patients.

City and Hackney Teaching PCT launched a catch-up campaign last year after a measles outbreak, with the majority

of unvaccinated pre-schoolers done by GPs and community clinics, and schoolchildren targeted by a vaccination bus.

Dr Gabrielle Laing, consultant community paediatrician at City and Hackney, said keeping GPs informed and involved was crucial to the success of the programme.

‘Practices were reporting being really busy – and in some cases we sent in PCT nurses to help out – but because they were kept informed most were able to cope.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he was ‘baffled and frustrated' by the Department of Health's decision to freeze the committee out.

‘We had not been involved and were only told about it the day before it was announced. This is another example of Government announcements without having consulted the GPC – even though GPs will be central to this scheme.'

The move echoes the DH's decision 18 months ago to freeze the GPC out of plans to introduce the pneumococcal and combined Hib/MenC vaccines.

Dr David Elliman, consultant community paediatrician for Islington and Haringey PCTs, said it was likely GPs would be expected to vaccinate under-fives under the usual target payment system, with older children vaccinated as part of a LES.

But the crude system of funding for PCTs raised concerns that GPs outside London where demand is high would be insufficiently funded to run clinics.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesperson, said GPs in inner-city areas would bear the brunt of the workload. ‘Some practices will be able to fit these patients into their everyday clinics. But practices that have not had a very high uptake, not just those in London, will have to run extra clinics to cope.'

MMR vaccine MMR vaccine

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