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GPs 'face week-long delay for Tamiflu vouchers'

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: GPs will have to wait at least eight days to obtain the Tamiflu vouchers which are a key part of the Government's new swine flu strategy, Pulse can reveal.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham told the House of Commons yesterday that the UK had abandoned its previous attempts to contain the swine flu outbreak, and moved to a new 'treatment phase' in the face of a spiralling number of cases.

Under the new procedures, GPs should diagnose swine flu cases by phone, and patients will then arrange for a ‘flu friend' to collect a voucher for Tamiflu from GP practices.

But Pulse has learned it will be the end of next week at the earliest before GPs can expect delivery of the vouchers from the Department of Health – leaving many GPs facing chaos.

Dr Peter Holden, a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire and the BMA's lead negotiator on swine flu told Pulse: ‘As far as I'm aware there are no vouchers as yet and there will not be until the end of next week or the middle of the week after.

‘We've asked the DH for guidance in the intervening eight days but there isn't any. My advice to GPs is until you receive the proper vouchers use an FP10, but cross out the FP10 labelling, then tell the patient they can't collect it at a pharmacist but should arrange for someone to collect their Tamiflu from a collection point.

'That's what's already happening in [hotspot areas] London, Birmingham and Scotland. It may be that some PCTs have some other systems in place, in which case GPs should follow local arrangements, but otherwise what else are we as a professional supposed to do? It's not an ideal situation.'

The developments came as the fourth death from swine flu in the UK was announced, in a 19-year-old man in Lewisham hospital, London on Wednesday. Government predictions are that by August as many as 100,000 cases of swine flu could be diagnosed every day.

Dr Holden added that discussions with the DH on the suspension of the QOF were 'ongoing'. 'In hotspots doctors in a small number of practice have already incurred extra costs and the QOF has not been suspended. We expect that that will be honoured and their costs will be reimbursed', he said.

A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed that the vouchers had yet to reach GPs.

‘Local arrangements are still active and they will remain in place until the voucher system comes into play,' she said. 'We expect that to happen in the next two to three weeks.'

GPs may have to wait a week for the new Tamiflu vouchers to come GPs may have to wait a week for the new Tamiflu vouchers to come through

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