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GPs split over rejection of swine flu child vaccination deal

By Ian Quinn, Lilian Anekwe

The GPC's refusal to sign up to a national deal on swine flu vaccination for the under-fives is proving divisive, with a leading BMA council member attacking negotiators for getting it 'wrong'.

Dr Sam Everington, former deputy chair of the BMA and a GP in Tower Hamlets, told Pulse he had already begun vaccinating children and that all GPs should do the same.

‘I think the GPC were wrong,' he said. ‘It's potentially very damaging for us. I don't believe it is right that we don't get on with the job of vaccinating children. It's clinically indicated.'

Dr Everington said he had begun vaccinating under-fives after strong appeals from many parents, adding: ‘We're going ahead with it, we can't delay.'

‘Of course it means we have to work longer hours and of course there are implications for the workforce but this is a one off and by doing so we can push out this illness.'

Dr Everington was among a string of GPs who told Pulse practices should use the big surplus of the vaccine which has not been used by the other priority groups in the vaccination campaign. Pulse revealed this week that fewer than one in five had come forward to be vaccinated.

Dr Giles Hazan, a GP in Newhaven, said the GPC's response to the crisis had been ‘dreadful'.

‘This makes GPs look like money grabbing wasters that can't be bothered to immunise kids,' he said. ‘From what I can see it is not going to put an unbearable strain on us to provide this given the 50% take up rate and there is clearly a clinical need.'

Jeremy Betteridge, a practice manager in Penzance, Cornwall, added: ‘I can't quite get my head round this. Where's the leadership coming from and what are the fundamentals? The CMO stated quite clearly that children under 5 are the next priority; the vaccine is in supply and quantities good; there's low uptake in the other groups; we've got the appointments available. So stop faffing around and let's get on with it.'

Dr Jane Philip, a GP in Hounslow, said she estimated that with a take up of 50% her practice may end up doing only between 150-120 vaccinations, adding: ‘We can suspend a few routine chronic disease clinics and sort it in a fortnight.'

But GPC negotiators said the vaccination of children will involve a ‘huge' workload.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said of the failed negotiations: ‘The access targets had to be relaxed so that they would not be an issue for GPs. The Government agreed to relax them but not enough. They were nowhere near what we asked for.'

‘We did not demand any money. We were quite happy to stick to the money we had discussed. It was really about freeing up time.

‘We explained we would need a very significant relaxation before we could encourage GPs to do this. They could not accept that. What we did not want was to say "we are unwilling to vaccinate children".'

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said: ‘I would be very surprised if PCTs can find private providers who would be able to provide these vaccinations for £5.25 without it being a massive loss leader.'

‘Anyone who says GPs are being greedy doesn't understand how practices finances work.'

Dr Daryl Mullen, a GP in Parbold, Lancashire, backed the BMA decision. He said the extra workload would 'come at the expense of availability/access elsewhere', adding: 'The DH would then take money off practices for failure to meet access targets. Net result children vaccinated but GPs expected to pay back the government. The answer, as the BMA said, should be a resounding no unless access targets are removed.'

Dr Sam Everington

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