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Independents' Day

MMR crisis hits GPs' pockets

The MMR crisis is hitting GPs in the pocket, with a plunge in the number qualifying for vaccine target pay over the last year, new Government figures reveal.

The first hard evidence that GPs are paying the financial penalty for parents' distrust of MMR emerged as uptake of the vaccine collapsed to its lower ever level.

The number of GPs who achieved the 90 per cent uptake target fell by 2,793, according to Department of Health data released last week.

The proportion of GPs paid for hitting the higher target ­ worth £7,965 to the average three-partner practice under the new contract ­ was 85 per cent last year, down 4 per cent on the previous year.

The proportion getting higher target pay for pre-school boosters also plummeted, from 70 to 64 per cent.

Meanwhile quarterly figures published by the Health Protection Agency showed MMR uptake among two-year-olds fell by 2.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2003 and now stands at just 78.9 per cent across the UK. Not a

single health authority or board managed to achieve the 95 per cent uptake needed to prevent measles outbreaks.

GP negotiators vowed to use the new evidence on GPs' pay as ammunition in their battle to persuade the Government to count informed dissenters towards targets.

GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden said informed dissent was one of the top-five issues on the post-contract agenda. 'I would like to think this degree of new evidence would soak into their consciousness,' he said. 'But they have dug their heels in and will not see sense. My concern is that it will take the death of children in the UK before something changes. This goes way beyond GP income.'

The Health Protection Agency urged GPs to focus on bolstering MMR uptake instead of concentrating on the Hib catch-up campaign, which runs until September.

In a veiled criticism of the timing of the Hib campaign, Dr Natasha Crowcroft, public health consultant at the agency, said: 'In a health service as busy as ours, when things get added it tends to distract people a bit. It's not going to help. MMR should be the priority because there are cases of measles out there.'

She predicted the fall in MMR uptake would not level off until early next year.

 · BMA rejects compulsory

vaccination, page 7

Dr Joe Neary has criticised NHS Direct's policy on patient confidentiality after he was refused details of advice given to a patient taking a controlled drug.

Dr Neary, head of the RCGP's

clinical network, was visited by a

patient with a mental health problem who claimed he had run out of his

supply of the drug because an NHS

Direct adviser had told him to increase his dose. 'When I phoned NHS Direct I was told the information was confidential,' said Dr Neary, a GP in Leeds.

The policy was open to abuse by some patients, he warned. 'A person might use NHS Direct to manipulate me into increasing the amount of methadone they were prescribed.'

 · NHS Direct under fire, page 4

Most 'poor' GPs are men over 50

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