Uncertainty surrounds the vaccination of all children under five against swine flu after the Government refused to reduce doctors’ workloads.
UK-wide talks broke down yesterday and negotiations are now expected to be held on a local basis between the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland and health officials in the province.
Chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland General Practitioner’s Committee, Dr Brian Dunn, last night confirmed no discussions have taken place on a local level but said the organisation will participate in negotiations if approached by health chiefs.
The talks failed after the Government refused to suspend targets which determine the amount of money paid to GP surgeries. Doctors have said they are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve the targets while also treating patients suffering with swine flu.
“The Government would not support adequate measures to help free up staff time to deliver this phase of the H1N1 vaccination programme in what is the busiest time of the year for general practice,” Dr Dunn said.
Last night the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said it believes the second phase will be completed as planned.
“I am confident that the vaccination programme will proceed smoothly and know that many Northern Ireland GPs will want to provide this service for their youngest patients,” Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said.