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Call for ‘sleeping’ flu pandemic DES



By Lilian Anekwe

‘Sleeping’ direct enhanced services should be established in advance of future pandemics, to avoid eleventh-hour negotiations over pandemic flu vaccination, senior advisers are urging the Department of Health.

Speaking at the RCGP’s pandemic flu summit last week, Professor Lewis Ritchie, a member of the DH’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation influenza sub-group, said: ‘It would be good to review the GP contractual arrangements to see if there is scope for advanced sleeping contracts for DESs, in the same way as the DH negotiates pandemic vaccine contracts in advance so that as a profession we can be ahead of the game.’

Other GP leaders have previously singled out the lengthy and sometimes chaotic negotiations over the swine flu vaccination programme as a key reason for poor uptake, particularly in children.

Professor Ritchie, a GP in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, also admitted to having concerns about pregnant women’s perception of the safety of the vaccine.

But the current policy to routinely vaccinate pregnant women ends after the summer, despite BMJ research published last week suggesting pregnant women who had swine flu were 13 times more likely to be hospitalised.

Professor Lindsey Davies, the Department of Health’s national director of pandemic flu preparedness, said the national pandemic plan jointly drawn up by the DH and RCGP would be re-drawn in the light of the lessons learnt from the swine flu outbreak.

Future guidance will cover the possibility of pandemic hotspots occurring again she said, and DH advisers also recommended NICE rewrite its technology appraisals on the use of antivirals for flu prevention to reflect the fact that H1N1 is likely to be the dominant circulating strain of influenza in the coming flu seasons.

Call for ‘sleeping’ DES after the chaos of last year’s swine flu campaign