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GPC warns of 'massive' extra swine flu workload as new pay talks loom

By Lilian Anekwe

The Government's decision to extend the swine flu vaccination to health children under five will heap a ‘massive workload' on general practice, the GPC has warned.

GPs will have to vaccinate children aged between six months and five years of age against swine flu, once the programme to offer jabs to patients in the priority groups is completed.

Ministers have acted on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, based on emerging evidence that children under five years of age are more likely than other groups to be and also have high rates of admission to critical care.

The Department of Health estimates that an extra three million children in the UK will have to be vaccinated, and Dr Dean Marshall, chair of GPC Scotland and the GPC's lead negotiator on swine flu, said: ‘This is going to be a significant extra workload.'

‘There's a lot to be discussed with parents about safety, and there are issues around whether children will need one dose or two, so it's a massive workload.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the GPC would be forced to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate new pay terms with the Department of Health and NHS Employers, over how GPs would be paid for vaccinating the under fives.

And he admitted he feared safety concerns and reluctance amongst parents to have their young children vaccinated could scupper the success of the new program.

‘It's going to be contentious,' he said. 'This is a vaccine that parents will be remarkably sensitive about. It's going to need a lot more work done in terms of health education.'

Meanwhile GP leaders in Northern Ireland have reacted angrily to the Government's extension of the swine flu vaccination campaign, insisting 'there has been no agreement with GPs.'

Dr Tom Black, deputy chair of GPC Northern Ireland and a GP in Derry, said: 'We certainly welcome the extension of the H1N1 vaccination programme to children aged up to five years old. However, GPs are extremely disappointed that Minister McGimpsey did not consult with us before this announcement.'

'There has been no agreement with GPs to deliver the second phase of the vaccination programme.This programme needs to move forward on a four-country negotiation basis to ensure that H1N1 vaccinations are delivered safely to patients.'

Children under five are next to receive the swine flu jab

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