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GPs could lose flu vaccine control

GPs could be forced to hand over control of ordering flu vaccine after complaints about this year's programme, the Government's director of immunisation has suggested.

Professor David Salisbury said there was a "pretty compelling" case for the Government to take charge but there were issues over the way GPs are paid for the task.

The Government has been forced to release stocks of last winter's swine flu vaccine to bolster this year's supplies of the seasonal flu jab. While ministers have insisted there should be enough across England it has acknowledged a "mismatch", with some regions having too much vaccine and others a shortage.

Angry patients wanting to be vaccinated reported being turned away from GP surgeries while some doctors said they had run out. But GPs, who order the vaccine based on estimates from previous years, have remained adamant they have not under-ordered.

Prof Salisbury's comments come just a day after the Government published draft legislation which would see 80% of the NHS budget pass to GPs with control of commissioning services.

In an interview with the BBC, Prof Salisbury, who is reviewing the current vaccine ordering and supply programme, said GPs purchasing the jab was a "sort of historic hangover" based on their knowledge of how many people fall into at-risk groups. But new information systems meant this could be monitored in other ways.

He said: "Given where we are now with the degree of intimacy between ordering and supply we need to question whether that could be done differently."

Prof Salisbury said central ordering would make the issue of any shortages "much more preventable".

Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We would need a lot of convincing that this scheme would improve things.

"It does seem very puzzling. We are being told we are going to get huge responsibilities to run services locally and yet ... the seasonal flu campaign, for some reason there's a suggestion that we change a system that works well."

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