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At the heart of general practice since 1960

NICE denies 'self-inflicted' advice

Sick as a parrot

GPs are being accused of wasting flu vaccine supplies. It is being suggested we did not order enough vaccines and have given too many to the wrong people.

My surgery, like many others, ordered roughly the same number as last year and we have given them to more or less the same people. With QOF points up for grabs, you can take it as read that GPs are pretty focused on getting vaccine into the right arms. And with a payment threshold of 70 per cent for over-65s you can guess where we'll be aiming next.

Performance-related pay works well in industry. It works well in practice too.

This year though there has been so much Government-driven media hype that we haven't had to bother with clinical persuasion and begging and pleading. Patients have simply queued up. Forgive me if I suggest this could all have been predicted.

Don't forget that all our QOF prevalence data, downloaded monthly via QMAS, offers the best public health data in the world on risk groups and vaccine uptake. It should have been obvious what was going to happen.

Our servers collate data nightly, yet national collation only occurs monthly. Intensive data work a few weeks ago would have predicted requirements well before this round of 'health care by press release'.

The situation is simply that there aren't enough doses because demand has been unprecedented and patients are in a state of panic. Why are we rationing a £5 vaccine with few risks or contraindications to 20 per cent of the population?

Not enough advance planning has been done and now the knives are out and the search is on for scapegoats ­ ie, us. Health minister Rosie Winterton recently met with the global health security initiative to develop, among other things, 'approaches to improve capacity and access to vaccines'.

One flu jab for each patient who wants one would be a good start.

Dr Andy Jones is a GP in Stamford, Lincolnshire

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