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GPs able prescribe antivirals outside at-risk groups in flu outbreak

GPs will be given the green light to prescribe Tamiflu to patients who are not in at-risk groups in the event of a flu crisis, the DH has announced.

Announcing the Government's strategy to combat flu this winter, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, revealed a change in the regulations regarding GPs prescribing antivirals.

Under the change the CMO can now authorise GPs to prescribe Tamiflu and Relenza to patients who are not in at-risk groups. The DH told Pulse the CMO would give GPs the green light to prescribe the antivirals in the case of a flu outbreak.

The CMO also announced that the NHS is equipped with an extra two million flu vaccines this year as it bids to avoid the repeat of the vaccine shortage that gripped some areas last year. The 16.7m doses held includes an emergency stockpile of 400,000 doses centrally ordered by the DH in case stocks run low in local areas.

Officials said the decision to centrally purchase extra doses was an ‘insurance policy' and denied the move showed a lack of faith in GPs to order the appropriate amount of medication.

Professor David Salisbury, the Government's director of immunisation, said:‘[The stockpile] might not be used and we hope it isn't used.We had to put in the order as a contingency. It is an insurance policy.'

Dame Sally confirmed that, for the second year running, the DH will not be running an advertising awareness campaign on the flu vaccine. She said that the DH believed advice provided by GPs and other trusted health workers was the most effective way of increasing vaccination rates and said their efforts will be supported by targeted messages encouraging flu jab uptake appearing on pharmacy bags in 2,200 chemists across England.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said:‘We know that health professionals are the most trusted.'

‘People don't listen to Government they listen to their doctors. That is why we asking for GPs to be doing it.'

The news came as NHS Employers announced it is running ad dedicated campaign to boost uptake among NHS staff. Last year, only one in three health workers across England were vaccinated. In some health trusts the figure was one in 10.The average vaccination rate among GPs was 38%.

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP and a GP in Kennington, said:‘GPs should not be treated any differently than any other member of the public – it is up to them whether they wish to get the flu vaccination.'

‘The idea that it is selfish because we don't have the vaccine is outrageous. While we should, and do, encourage patients to get vaccinated we need to put this in perspective, this is not ebola virus.'