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GPs to get HPV vaccine role

GPs are set to have a role in giving HPV vaccines on the NHS after ministers finally decided to introduce an immunisation programme in adolescent girls.

The 'in principle' decision, predicted by Pulse last week, came after ministers accepted recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

The Department of Health will introduce a vaccination campaign against HPV in 12- to 13-year-old girls as early as next September, after coming under intense pressure from patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry.

Public health minister Caroline Flint said the decision was 'great news', and the vaccine, which modelling data suggests will reduce the number of cervical cancer cases in the UK by up to 70%, would 'prevent many women from catching the HPV virus in the first place, potentially saving hundreds of lives'.

But GPs' precise role in the campaign remained unclear, with the department saying only that GPs would be expected to prescribe the vaccine on the NHS 'if the clinical circumstances of a patient warrant such action'.

RCGP chair Professor Mayur Lakhani was locked in discussions with the department over what those clinical circumstances might be. The vaccination programme is set to be largely schools-based, but last week Dr Syed Ahmed, a public health consultant at NHS Greater Glasgow and Strathclyde who is on the HPV subgroup of the JCVI, told Pulse GPs might still be needed to administer the vaccine.

'There needs to be a back-up so that parents can go to their GP for the jab as well. If there's no infrastructure at the school then it should be done in general practice,' he said.

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