A row over pay threatens to derail government plans to vaccinate healthy children under the age of five against swine flu.
Ministers and GPs have failed to reach a national deal on the delivery of the vaccine, after the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that vaccinating three million children during the busy winter period would leave doctors out of pocket, reports the Times.
Ministers had offered doctors £5.25 per dose to vaccinate the under-fives – the same as they are getting for the first priority group, as well as a “small concession”.
But the BMA had argued that doctors should be given leeway over fulfilling their obligations on access to appointments. Under the terms of their contract, doctors are paid bonuses to give most patients appointments within 48 hours, as well as allowing them to book in advance.
Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “We sincerely wanted to be able to reach a national agreement. Unfortunately, this has not been possible, because the government would not support adequate measures to help free up staff time.
“At the busiest time of the year for general practice, with surgeries already dealing with the additional work of vaccinating the first wave of at-risk groups, we felt this was vital to ensure this next phase could be carried out quickly.”
The Department of Health said yesterday that vaccinating under-fives would begin before Christmas anyway, with local NHS trusts told to implement this stage of the vaccination programme.
But “sources close to the negotiations” told the Times it would be difficult to get the programme under way in the coming weeks.