GPs' Concerns Over Flu Jab Delays, NHS Deal, and Press Coverage

Tim Locke

September 06, 2021

Pressure on GPs is increasing with delays in flu vaccine deliveries, discontent with the latest deal with NHS England, and negative press coverage.

The problems come on top of a 3-month shortage of blood test vials which has resulted in some tests being cancelled.

Flu Jab Campaign 'Cannot Fail'

A shortage of lorry drivers due to pandemic measures and Brexit has been blamed for disruption to flu vaccine deliveries, with some clinics being cancelled.

This year's flu programme is due to be the biggest ever with the inclusion of secondary school students.

Seqirus supplies flu jabs to GP practices in England and Wales. In a statement, a spokesperson said: "Due to unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays, we have informed all our customers of a consequent delay to their scheduled vaccine delivery by a maximum of 1 to 2 weeks.

"Seqirus is working hard to resolve the delay to allow customers to reschedule their influenza vaccination clinics."

Dr Gary Howsam, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "This is news we really didn’t want to hear. With over 36 million people eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS this year, GPs need the supply chain to run like clockwork. They are already under enormous pressure and still waiting for details of how the COVID booster campaign will align with everything else they need to do this winter.

"Practices plan meticulously each year to deliver the flu vaccination programme on a mass scale and it is essential that as many people as possible in at-risk groups get their vaccination as early into the flu season as possible.

"A delay of even a couple of weeks is going to have a big impact on practices and their patients, especially when GPs are already dealing with the fallout caused by the shortage of blood test bottles and the anxiety this is causing.

"Public confidence in vaccines is running high as a result of the success of the COVID programme and we must not lose that confidence from our patients.

"General practice and the entire NHS are dependent on the smooth roll-out of the winter flu vaccination programme. It cannot fail."

Talks Resume

An emergency meeting of the BMA's England GP committee has agreed to return to formal meetings with NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI ) after breaking off talks in May.

BMA GPC England Chair, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: "Whilst we have seen some initial signs of progress, including the scrapping of the restrictive and unhelpful Standard Operating Procedures, suspension of PCN  [primary care network] service specifications, a funding boost for PCN leaders and a change in tone from NHSEI's leadership, there is still much work to be done in proving that both the Government and NHSEI value family doctors and their teams.

"However, if we are not at the table, it is significantly harder for us to advocate for grassroots GPs and push for changes that secure the best for our members at a time that is so crucial for the profession."

He continued: "NHSEI and the Government have a long way to go in persuading the profession that they are committed to addressing the crisis in general practice and will support doctors and their teams who are at their wits’ end.

"Not least, we expect these organisations to promote and defend those working in general practice, most urgently in the face of the sustained attacks on our members within certain sections of the media.

"To be clear, and reflecting the views of the committee, this cannot be 'business as usual'. We must see far more evidence of action by the new NHSEI leadership to address the serious situation we now see in practices and other services that GPs work in, and we will do all that we can to hold them and Government to account."

Bad Press

The Doctors' Association UK (DAUK) lodged a formal complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over recent articles critical of general practice in The Telegraph.

A DAUK spokesperson said: "The narrative that general practice has been closed throughout the pandemic has filtered down to patients, leading to some patients delaying seeking care.

"Irresponsible reporting becomes a patient safety issue, when misinformation means someone avoids seeking help with serious symptoms. This needs to be called out."

Lead Image: allinvisuality/iStock/Getty


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