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Doncaster LPC holds GPs to account over flu jab threats

Doncaster LPC reported a local GP practice for coercing patients into having their flu jab at the surgery
Doncaster LPC reported a local GP practice for coercing patients into having their flu jab at the surgery

Local pharmacists reported a GP surgery for threatening to withhold repeat prescriptions from patients who did not get their flu jab at the practice, C+D has learned.

Nick Hunter, chief officer of Doncaster local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), “flagged” the surgery to the local medical committee (LMC), the local clinical commissioning group, and NHS England, “as soon as I was aware of the situation”, he told C+D.

“We've been working collaboratively over flu across Doncaster already and then this came about three weeks ago,” Mr Hunter said.

“The practice was open about the fact that it was trying to force patients to turn up at the surgery so [it could] vaccinate them,” Mr Hunter told C+D yesterday (October 12). “That is not acceptable.”

Mr Hunter described the situation as “acutely frustrating” and said the practice had been “digging its heels in for 24 hours or so”.

“Within 48 hours it was resolved – [but] that is a long time if you’re a patient waiting for medication,” he added.

However, Mr Hunter said he is not aware of any patients who went without their medication.

He told C+D his complaint resulted in “a positive outcome, because the processes in place kicked in, and patients were not put at risk”.

"Forced to compete"

Dean Eggitt, a GP and Doncaster LMC medical secretary, told C+D he believes GP practices are trying to come up with “imaginative ways” to make sure “revenue stays in-house”.

“The flu jab needs to not be [on] a payment-per jab-basis,” Dr Eggitt said. “We shouldn’t have to think about staying viable by giving people flu jabs.”

“The problem is beyond flu jabs and about how healthcare is funded,” Dr Eggitt continued. “[The NHS] doesn’t have sustainable funding and therefore [GPs and pharmacists] are forced to compete, rather than think about the quality of the medicine.”

Dr Eggitt added that “none of [a doctor's] background in general practice is business minded”.

“We are not business people and we don’t understand the concept of working with other providers in an ethical fashion,” he said. “This is very new to us.”

C+D reported last month that the British Medical Association (BMA) accused the pharmacy flu service of undermining “good working relationships” between pharmacy and general practice.

Have you experienced your local GP surgery directing patients away from your flu service? Get in touch and let us know by emailing [email protected].

How have GPs in your area reacted to the pharmacy flu service?

david williams, Community pharmacist

I have posted on this subject before, it is, as I have said, a difficult one. The ONLY answer long term is for collaberation. The GP's need to trust their local pharmacies and work together to send a message to the public to get vaccinated. Increasing the uptake rate in all groups and therefore protecting the GP's income. Without their budgeted income they will suffer and therefore not be able to provide all the services they plan either, in that I agree wholeheartedly with them. Why not try it? It has to be better than where we are now

Andy Burrells, Community pharmacist

I regularly interact with Dr. Eggitt and find him very pro pharmacy. He's always engaging and supportive.

I think if we can trust anyone to deal with this in a fair and appropriate manner, it would be him

A Hussain, Senior Management

To an extent I agree with Dr Eggitt and I have found him to be very fair towards pharmacy in the media.  However, much of the approach to flu vaccines is led by practice/business managers who do have an idea about commerce but have no clue about medical ethics.

This does not absolve the GP's of responsibility.  My accountant often suggests imaginative ways of increasing profits, but I rarely implement them because it's not merely a numbers game.

On the whole I feel that most pharmacies toe the line when offering flu jabs, as I am sure that the GP's would quite rightly crucify us if we were out of line.

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