A plan to immunise children aged between six months and five years against swine flu will be rolled out in the run-up to Christmas, as talks over a national agreement for GPs to provide the vaccination for the age group collapsed.
The British Medical Association's GPs' Committee feared practices would be swamped.
Instead, ministers have asked PCTs to put local plans into place to vaccinate the group.
Under-fives are the next priority as they are the most likely to be hospitalised if they become ill with swine flu. The sector also has high rates of admission to critical care and there have been some fatalities.
Support for the plan was sounded by the UK's independent advisory board on vaccines the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "It is disappointing that we have not been able to come to a national agreement with GPs to vaccinate children from six months to five years old. But we are now getting on with the job and asking local health trusts to put local plans in place so that vaccination of these children can begin seamlessly."
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee, said: "We sincerely wanted to be able to reach a national agreement with the UK governments about a process for vaccinating the under-fives against swine flu. Unfortunately this has not been possible, because the government would not support adequate measures to help free up staff time.
"We would encourage local medical committees and primary care organisations (PCOs) to put in place arrangements that are sensitive to the workload pressures in their area. These should be agreed as soon as possible."
Copyright © Press Association 2009
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"We cannot hold vaccination clinics for the under-5s the way we do for adults, it would far too traumatic and I'm sure most parents wouldn't be happy for it to happen that way. So my question to the government is: 'Where are the extra man hours to be found to vaccinate the 630 under-5s on our register'? We allow 20 minutes for child imms, that equates to 210 additional hours of nursing time. It's not about money, but about offering an appropriate level of care, and we don't have the staff resources to do that" – Name and address withheld
"This will mean an even lower take-up rate than previously as many patients will only want their child vaccinated at their GP practice" – Jane Gamble, Coventry
"We have well over average number of patients in this age range – deprived area with large families, six kids is not unusual. Out of 6,300 patients, 575 fall in this cohort x2 and no time allowances made – where are we to conjure up the additional nurse support from? Our local 'bank' will not be able to meet this. Still it gives the gutter press something to beat GP services with and allows government off the hook" – Name and address withheld
"Unfortunately the media is already describing this collapse of talks as all about money. It seems they always put that slant on things when GPs are involved. No one seems to appreciate that we have had to put on hold many other services to run the seasonal flu campaign. Immediately after that we had to start the swine flu campaign. Give us a break! The nurses are weary! They don't want permanent overtime. Then we were told we were expected to vaccinate the children too. It is clear that vaccinating children is also likely to be stressful. We have already had screaming over-5s in the practice after their vaccinations. It isn't always about money, but it is about the service we offer generally, and we cannot keep postponing other work indefinitely. The other work is our bread and butter income, not bonus money. GP surgeries and their staff are always fair game for criticism it seems. We wonder why many members of the public feel they have the right to verbally abuse them. Perhaps it's the drip drip of constant media criticism that does it. The media should play fair and seek the alternative viewpoint sometimes. Most fairminded people would expect them to do that" – Carole Bonney, Lancashire