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GPs could hand flu vaccine control to DH

GPs in England could face losing responsibility for the management of flu vaccines following recent issues with supply

GPs in England could face losing responsibility for the management of flu vaccines following recent issues with their supply, with control to be taken over by the Department of Health (DH).

Speaking to the BBC, Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the DH, criticised the "unsatisfactory" distribution of the flu vaccination which meant risk groups in certain areas who wanted to be immunised were unable to.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), vaccine uptake among under-65s in a clinical 'at risk' group, including people with diabetes and pregnant woman, was said to have reached 48 per cent.  The figure was recorded as 71.7 per cent for the over-65s.

The HPA also reported 254 deaths from flu in the UK since October.

The majority of vaccines used in the UK are managed by the DH, though seasonal flu vaccine is currently purchased from manufacturers by GP practices.

Now leading a review into the flu jab shortages, Prof Salisbury criticised the current method of ordering and distribution.

"The system grew up that [GPs] purchased their own flu vaccines because it was accepted that they knew how many of their patients came into risk groups," said Prof Salisbury.

"Given where we are now, given the level of intimacy between ordering and supply, we need to question whether that could be done differently."

New technology and ways of handling information were mentioned by Prof Salisbury as a reason for the DH to replace GPs as flu vaccine suppliers, with patient data now available on a wider, accessible scale.

"Although we don't know how many patients GPs have with severe asthma, or how many have heart disease, we can handle the data if [GPs] upload the data to us, and we could link that to purchase arrangements. So some of the reasons we didn't do it before are no longer as robust because of the sophistication of the information systems we now work with."

Salisbury's comments come just one day after the announcement of the Health and Social Care Bill, which describes changes in the way the NHS is run in England to give GPs greater powers over commissioning and care.

20th January 2011

From: Healthcare

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