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GPs’ huge swine flu vaccination challenge unveiled

By Ian Quinn

GPs have been handed one of the biggest tasks in the history of the NHS after the Government revealed its plans for the swine flu vaccination programme after weeks of negotiation with the GPC.

GPs will target nine million people most at risk from complications from the expected second wave of the outbreak in an attempt to prevent hospitals being plunged into chaos.

Under the plans, announced last night, it was revealed GP practices will be paid £5.25 for each of the two doses of the vaccine to be given. The two doses could yet be revised down to one, depending on trial results.

The collection date for data on childhood immunisations will be postponed by six weeks to mid-February to allow practices time to carry out the programme.

However, LES funding will not be used to fund the vaccination programme.

Instead, practices vaccinating a higher percentage of ‘at-risk' swine flu patients (a minimum of 3% more), compared with the 2008/9 UK uptake of seasonal flu, will be granted a drop in the thresholds of the controversial GP Patient Survey. This would mean a 10% drop in the upper and 20% drop in the lower thresholds of QOF indicators PE7 and PE8 in 2009/10.

The DH revealed no change would be made to the QOF framework itself.

Until the announcement, PCTs were implementing wildly varying plans for carrying out the swine flu vaccination programme, as negotiations between the Government and the GPC dragged on.

A string of trusts – including those hit hardest by the pandemic's first wave – were pushing ahead with their own planning and beginning to recruit GPs for immunisation LESs.

The deal throws into confusion the state of local plans such as that in Coventry, which had planned to use 'Designated Centres' for vaccination, with GPs playing a much less pivotal role..

They had been attacked by Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP in Coventry and chair of GPC West Midlands, who said: ‘GPs have the registers and know our patients. You will get a higher uptake if it's done by GP practices.'

Announcing the deal, health secretary Andy Burnham said:

‘I am pleased that GPs will continue to play a key role in the fight against swine flu. They have already worked incredibly hard in what have been very difficult circumstances to help their patients.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘We are pleased we have reached a national agreement as we believe this is the best way to deliver the vaccine to the at-risk population. This will be a lot of additional work for practices, but general practice is used to running large vaccination programmes.'

Dame Barbara Hakin, lead negotiator at NHS Employers, said: ‘GPs have an absolutely crucial role to play in the plans to combat swine flu and I am confident that they will carry out this role extremely well.'

Swine flu plans have been revealed after weeks of negotiations Swine flu plans have been revealed after weeks of negotiations Take our swine flu survey - and win an iPod Touch!

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