Swine flu vaccination 'impossible' to plan without delivery dates, GP leaders warn
By Lilian Anekwe
The GPC has warned that GPs are finding it 'impossible' to begin planning their swine flu vaccination programmes or schedule patient appointments because many practices have no idea when they will receive their supplies of the vaccine.
The first batch of 500 doses per practice was due to arrive at practices from the beginning of this week, with further supplies sent out over the coming weeks - but many GPs have yet to receive the vaccine and have not been told when it will arrive.
The Department of Health insists the vaccination programme is proceeding as planned, and has urged GPs to log on to a secure website, www.immform.dh.gov.uk, to find out when their vaccine will arrive.
But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said many practices' planning was being hampered because they had not been given a delivery date.
'This is impossible,' he said. 'We've made all these plans but we can't carry them out because they can't tell us when the vaccine is coming.'
'It will then take one to two weeks after the vaccine has been delivered to then get it out to people.'
Dr Timothy Heywood, a GP in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, said his practice was 'pretty prepared', but was one of those yet to receive the vaccine.
'Nurses are on standby to put in extra weekend clinics at short notice, but we didn't want to book the sessions until the vaccines were in the fridge,' he said.
'Not sure how we're going to let people know the vaccine has arrived. That is the biggest worry - what if a thousand people start ringing every day to see if it's here yet?'
Dr Marcus Fellows, a GP in Wincanton, Somerset, said: 'We have had no vaccine yet and none of our staff have been done.'
'We are reasonably prepared and plan to do sessions on the Saturday mornings that we have a doctor doing an extended hours surgery - alternate Saturdays. We may be doing sessions at other times but have a willing nursing staff who are very co operative and understanding.'
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The swine flu vaccination programme is being rolled out as planned. We have been clear that deliveries to GPs will take place over the coming weeks.'
‘Vaccine production is a biological process - like every other country, we are reliant on supplies arriving from manufacturers. Delivery dates are dependant on having sufficient supplies in stock.'
‘GPs should wait to receive the vaccine before inviting patients in. This can in many cases be done by telephone, text, or email rather that waiting for postal appointments to be sent.'GP practices are due to start receiving supplies of the swine flu vaccine from this week