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GPs get extra pay to vaccinate staff against swine flu

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: A group of PCTs is to pay practices extra for immunising healthcare workers against swine flu as NHS managers admit many GPs are set to refuse to have the vaccine.

GPs are due to start being immunised by their practice colleagues next week, as one of the first priority groups for the huge swine flu vaccine campaign.

But although some PCTs say they expect almost 100% of GPs to take the vaccine, others admit they think up to half will go unprotected, despite Government fears that the system may collapse if too many frontline workers become infected.

The move to pay practices to immunise staff came as the Government revealed the vast majority of patients in the at-risk groups will now need just one dose of the vaccine not two.

NHS Somerset admitted to Pulse that it was only banking on 50% of GPs being vaccinated, while NHS Westminster said it expected uptake among its GPs to be ‘approximately 60%'.

And Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC and a GP in Erdington, said all three Birmingham PCTs would be offering LES payments for vaccination of healthcare workers after acknowledging they ‘were not getting anywhere in making sure vaccination of frontline workers would be up to scratch'.

‘Heart of Birmingham, Birmingham East and North and South Birmingham recognised they needed to draw on the expertise of practices, and we managed to persuade them of the wisdom of compensating practices,' he said.

Others PCTs have set demanding uptake targets. NHS Bromley and NHS Blackburn with Darwen said they were aiming for 80% uptake, and an NHS Hampshire spokesperson said: ‘We expect uptake among GPs for whom there is no clinical contraindication to flu vaccination to be close to 100%.'

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned this week that GPs who didn't have the vaccine risked accelerating the outbreak. ‘It's up to individuals whether they have the vaccine but we would recommend it both for themselves and in order to prevent its spread.'

Dr David Salisbury, Department of Health director of immunisation, told trusts: ‘Any barriers to vaccination must be considered and removed.'

‘Uptake of seasonal flu vaccine by healthcare workers has tended to be very low. Arrangements need to be made locally to increase uptake.'

Dr John Hedges, a GP in Royston, Hertfordshire, said: ‘GPs in the practice are going to have it done as a risk minimisation, in case we give it to patients.'

But Dr David Church, a GP in Machynlleth, Wales, said he would not have the vaccine. ‘The information so far available suggests we probably won't recommend it to staff,' he said.

The Government has announced patients will receive just one dose of GSK's vaccine Pandemrix, apart from children under 10, who will get two half-doses, and immunocompromised patients over 10 years, who will receive two full doses, in both cases three weeks apart.

How the swine flu vaccination programme will work

• 21st October - first deliveries to NHS acute trusts to vaccinate hospital staff and at-risk patients in priority groups in hospital
• 26th October - first deliveries to practices for use vaccinating GPs, practice staff and members of the public in priority groups
• GPs will be expected to vaccinate each other within the practice, or other trained healthcare workers can administer the vaccine 'where appropriate', before beginning the public campaign
• Practices should then vaccinate at-risk groups in the following order: individuals aged six months and up to 65 years in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups, pregnant women, household contacts of immunocompromised individuals and people aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups

GPs are due to start being vaccinated by their practice colleagues from next week GPs are due to start being vaccinated by their practice colleagues from next week

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