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GPs must wait 'weeks' for swine flu vaccination targets

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The Government has admitted it will be weeks before it reaches agreement with the GPC on one of the most crucial strands of the swine flu vaccination deal, despite the imminent arrival of the second wave.

GP leaders have welcomed the agreement to relax patient experience targets to ease workload, if GPs vaccinate a higher percentage of at-risk patients against swine flu than last year's national average uptake for seasonal flu vaccination.

Under the terms of the deal, practices where the number of patients receiving vaccination increases by more than 3% compared to last year's seasonal flu uptake are to be granted a 10% and 20% drop in the upper and lower thresholds of the controversial PE7 and PE8 QOF indicators.

But despite the looming possibility of a renewed outbreak, the two sides are yet to agree a figure for last year's overall average seasonal flu vaccine uptake - the crucial figure upon which GPs will have to improve in order to trigger the relaxation in access targets.

The Department of Health confirmed that discussions were ongoing, but admitted it could be weeks before practices know their targets.

‘The process is under way, but it will be more weeks than days,' a spokesperson told Pulse.

It comes as new Health Protection Agency figures released today showed a further rise in influenza-like illness. GP consultation rates for flu-like illness rose to 16.2 per 100,000, up from 12.9 per 100,000 the previous week.

And the HPA warned that 'sharp rises' in influenza activity had been reported in the United States in recent weeks, particularly in school-age children.

GPC negotiator and GPC Scotland chair Dr Dean Marshall told Pulse that while the at-risk groups for the seasonal and swine flu vaccination campaigns were similar, GPs would have to wait before finding out the exact threshold they are expected to improve upon.

‘That is an issue that's to be resolved,' he said. ‘The groups are fairly similar. You have to take out the ‘well' elderly and then you're adding in the pregnant women and the household contacts of the immuno-compromised, which you don't normally do.

‘So that's going to be an interesting discussion about how we do that. But they're not comparable groups so we're in discussions about how we do that and what is the national average.'

The calculations will be informed by separate statistics already available for the different groups, which show last year's seasonal uptake for over-65s was 74.1%, but uptake among other ‘at-risk' groups was just 47.2%.

A key element of the swine flu vaccination deal will not be agreed for 'weeks', the Department of Health said today A key element of the swine flu vaccination deal will not be agreed for 'weeks', the Department of Health said today

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