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GPs threaten reprisals as flu row grows

The NHS Confederation has challenged GP negotiators to provide written evidence that it agreed a deal to pay GPs for immunising at-risk under-65s against flu this winter.

Negotiators have accused ministers and the confederation of reneging on a May agreement to give GPs a £6.80 item-of-service payment for this year's flu campaign.

GPs also threatened to hit back unless the Government backs down.

The row escalated this week when Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation lead negotiator, said its minutes from the crucial May 1 meeting contained no reference to any such agreement.

He said: 'We will ask the GPC for any documented

evidence, as we have documented minutes of all our meetings, and if there is something that has clearly been missed on our side then we will discuss that.'

GP negotiators said they were trawling through notes of the meeting, but admitted they had not kept minutes in 'traditional form'.

Nevertheless, GPC chair Dr John Chisholm said: 'We have absolute categorical recollection of what was agreed.'

The deadlock will be resolved when health minister John Hutton returns from holiday in early September.

Mr Farrar said it was 'extremely important' the row did not sour relationships. He added: 'What we are not going to do is end up saying someone has lied. It is a misunderstanding and the minister will have to take a view.'

But angry LMCs warned GPs would scupper Government access targets and spurn any active campaign to maximise flu vaccine uptake in at-risk under-65s unless the Department of Health agreed to an item-of-service fee.

GPC member Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC and a GP in the city, said: 'If the department wants to hurt GPs, fine, GPs can do the same. Access targets is a lovely one.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, Leeds LMC secretary and a GP in the city, said GPs were

'completely frustrated' and would lose all trust in the

Government unless it reversed its line.

He added: 'If patients become aware of this then there could be a big political fallout at the next general election.'

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