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London GPs agree swine flu vaccination deal for children

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: GPs across London have broken ranks with the BMA after their leaders signed a deal to deliver the swine flu vaccine to children under the age of five, in an agreement virtually identical to that rejected by the GPC.

Dr Michelle Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, told Pulse there had been no desire to 'undermine' the GPC, and that they had simply reached an agreement that was the best deal for local practices.

The agreement between NHS London and Londonwide LMCs will see practices earn a maximum of £100 on top of the £5.25 they get per vaccination.

It came after both parties said they were ‘committed to ensuring that the vaccination programme for this group of patients can start quickly so that as many children as possible can benefit from this vaccine'.

Under the deal, practices will be paid £5.25 per vaccination given, in line with the national agreement made for phase one of the swine flu vaccination programme for other at-risk groups.

The two sides have agreed token gesture payments of up to £100 per practice, with flat-rate sums to be paid to practices for hitting uptake levels of 25% and 40%.

They say the payments are ‘purely notional' and are ‘a token of NHS London's recognition of the particular pressures being experienced by practices in London at this time'.

Pulse has also learnt that NHS North East has signed a deal with six LMCs in the region for GPs to carry out the vaccination of children, again with GPs to be paid the same payment as for the original at-risk priority groups

LMC leaders in London said it hoped making the deal would lead to 'a better image for our GPs' and 'a greater likelihood of future agreements on a pan-London basis, rather than the prevention of fragmentation of our services to alternative providers.'

The deal follows huge controversy within the profession over the GPC decision to reject a very similar national deal earlier this week. The Department of Health is understood to have also offered £5.25 per vaccination, but refused to concede to a further relaxation of GP access targets.

Dr Sam Everington, former deputy chair of the BMA and a GP in Tower Hamlets, told Pulse yesterday he had already begun vaccinating children and urged all GPs should do the same, saying: ‘I think the GPC were wrong. 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.'

A joint letter from Dr Drage and Professor Lindsey Davis, acting regional director of public health at NHS London, says: ‘London has already been very successful in vaccinating the phase-one priority groups and frontline health care staff and there are solid foundations to build a successful programme for phase two.'

‘Parents with young children generally access the NHS through their GPs. This is particularly true in London. There is therefore a strong relationship between parents with young children and their GP and we are keen to ensure that GPs in London are able to deliver the majority of the vaccination programme to this group of patients.'

It adds: ‘NHS London recognises that the majority of GP practices are already under significant work load pressures in London. It is also very important that the swine flu vaccination programme continues to be delivered to the same high-quality standards as phase 1 of the programme. It is recognised that it will be a logistical challenge to commence this programme in the run-up to Christmas given the normal increase in emergency workload that all parts of the NHS in London experience during December to March.'

Dr Drage told Pulse: 'For London this was not just about price, but also about the real and present threat of 'Any Wiling Providers', and a desire to put an end to one LMC and one practice being played off against another.'

Broken ranks: GPs in London have signed up to deliver swine flu vaccine to under fives Broken ranks: GPs in London have signed up to deliver swine flu vaccine to under fives

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