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Midwives duck out of whooping cough campaign

Exclusive: GPs are being dumped with the lions’ share of the whooping cough vaccination programme in pregnant women after midwives said they did not have enough capacity or training.

LMC leaders in many areas midwives are refusing to take part in the programme and have warned that uptake of the vaccine may be affected.

The Department of Health said it was up to local NHS organisations to make arrangements to involve midwives, but Pulse has learnt that this is not happening in many areas.

The DH announced last month that all pregnant women are to be offered the pertussis vaccine as part of a £10 million temporary programme being rolled out across the country by GPs and midwives.

The move is designed to counter a major surge in whooping cough cases with 4,791 cases so far this year - more than four times higher than the total number of cases reported for the whole of 2011.

But Dr John Grenville, Derbyshire LMC secretary said they were frustrated that the task of vaccination had fallen entirely on GPs who do very little antenatal care.

He said there was a danger that women receiving most of their routine care from would fall between the cracks when they were not regularly visiting the GP.

He said: ‘They say they’re not trained but we are not sympathetic to that argument. We are trying to put pressure on for this to be a service commissioned from them.’

Dr Rob Barnett, Liverpool LMC secretary, said midwives in his area were not administering the vaccine due to lack of training.

He said: ‘These are competent, intelligent individuals who deal with women at a precarious stage of their life so they should be able to do this.

‘On the one hand the Government is saying we’re going to try to hammer you into the ground while on the other they’re saying we need your help. The good will in all this is ebbing away faster than some people might think.’

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, also said GPs were doing most of the immunisation, but that midwives were best placed to do the vaccinations because they had built up the relationship with the pregnant woman.

He said: ‘One problem is that GPs no longer do much antenatal care so haven’t built up that relationship with the patient when talking to them about the benefits of the vaccine.’

RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos agreed that midwives needed to be more engaged in the immunisation programme: ‘The only way we are going to deliver high pertussis immunisation rates for pregnant women is if GPs and midwives work together.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘It is up to local NHS organisations to make arrangements to involve midwives or other suitably qualified and experienced providers in delivering the programme, based on the need in their area.’

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwifery, said midwives could only carry out immunisations if they had the capacity.

She said: ‘The GPs keep saying they are very busy, but so are midwives as they have had a 40% increase in births.’

A spokeperson from NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County said midwives were not able to offer vaccines ‘especially at such short notice’. 

She added: ‘Midwives from one provider are also providing opportunistic vaccination for those attending delivery suit. Midwifes from a second provider are administering the vaccine in GP clinics as required.’


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