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GMC supports freedom of choice for flu patients

General Medical Council chief executive Niall Dickson has responded to concerns from C+D readers that some GPs are deterring patients from using the pharmacy flu service


GPs must not allow their financial interests to influence where they tell patients to get vaccinated, the profession's regulator has stressed.

Patients must be free to choose where they receive their flu jab, the General Medical Council (GMC) told C+D, in response to concerns from readers that some GPs are deterring patients from using England's national pharmacy flu service.

“Doctors – like pharmacists – must not allow any interest they have, financial or otherwise, to affect the way they treat patients,” GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said last week (October 8).

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) joined the GMC in stressing that “it is an individual’s choice where they get vaccinated”. But neither organisation would say whether they will investigate the specific examples of GP behaviour highlighted by C+D.

This included a text message sent by a Doncaster GP practice that urged patients to get vaccinated at the practice or “risk losing vital services” it provides.

GPs "hugely appreciate" pharmacy support

RCGP honorary secretary Nigel Mathers said practices are “under so much pressure” and the organisation “hugely appreciates the support of our pharmacist colleagues in alleviating our workloads”.

“Patients have a number of options when choosing where they wish to be vaccinated, including their GP practice or in many community pharmacies,” Professor Mathers said.

“We do ask our patients to inform their GP practice if they choose to get vaccinated elsewhere – particularly if they have previously received their vaccine at a GP practice – so we can avoid unnecessary vaccines being ordered for them,” he said.

Although there is no national IT system in place for this year’s service, Professor Mathers added that it is “essential that data on vaccination uptake is shared among GP practices and pharmacies”.

NHS England told C+D last week that it will take action if it feels a practice is “unduly influencing patient choice”. 

Contractor Amish Patel spoke about the "horror stories" he had heard of some practices attempting to dissuade patients from using the pharmacy flu service during C+D's webinar last month. Listen to the full debate here


Have you experienced GPs deterring patients from being vaccinated in a pharmacy?

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