SecondOpinion : Andy Jones
By Emma Wilkinson
GPs face running out of flu vaccine after the bird flu scare left them inundated with worried patients.
Many practices are scheduling extra clinics to cope with the surge in people seeking vaccination, including younger at-risk patients who have never before come forward.
While GPs have welcomed the boost to vaccine uptake, their flu clinics have been overwhelmed as patients have queued round the block for the vaccine.
Some GPs have reported a five-fold increase in flu-related inquiries and hours of wasted appointment time.
Dr George Kassianos, a GP in Bracknell and RCGP immunisation spokesperson, told Pulse: 'For the first time ever we have had a queue of patients at the reception inquiring about flu vaccination.
'The addition this year of carers of elderly or disabled people puts additional and largely unknown pressure on our vaccine supplies.'
Delays in vaccine supplies are also causing difficulties for GPs as they struggle to meet demand.
Dr Robert Morley, a GP in Birmingham and joint executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said: 'We've had people who aren't in high-risk groups asking for vaccination. And we've been inundated with people with a sniffle or sore throat.
'Improving uptake in high-risk groups is a silver lining but if everyone comes forward we definitely won't have enough. We have based our supplies on last year's [uptake].'
Dr Prakash Shah, a GP in Wandsworth, south-west London, said uptake among high-risk patients was already much higher than last year.
'We haven't got enough supply if demand increases. We will have to buy from the open market or give a prescription to the patient,' he said.
Dr Andrew Orr, a GP in Montrose, Scotland, said he had responded to the rush for the flu vaccine by setting up 'informal mini-clinics' on an almost daily basis.
Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, urged GPs to turn away patients who weren't in high-risk categories.
'You don't need a flu jab if you're not in a risk group and if a patient wants one they will have to wait until they've gone to everyone who needs it,' he said.