GP leaders are negotiating for more than £700m in payments for giving people the swine flu vaccine, HSJ has learned.
The British Medical Association GPs committee is understood to be asking for £7 per dose. The government plans to make the vaccine available to all, and each of 50 million or so people will need two doses.
Negotiations between the BMA, government and NHS Employers are ongoing.
GPs have said they should play a leading role because they have the infrastructure and experience required from other immunisation programmes. They say access to GP records is important to identify risks such as allergies in some patients.
The BMA completed a “feasibility plan” for the huge programme about two weeks ago.
A spokeswoman said: “The seasonal flu jab costs £7.51, but because the swine flu vaccination programme will be on a much larger scale there are also other issues to consider, not least the workload for general practice. We want to ensure GPs are still able to provide a good service to patients ill with conditions other than swine flu and that’s why we are continuing to negotiate with the government on this issue.”
A spokesman for NHS Employers confirmed it was holding discussions with the GP committee on “a range of issues, including how a flu vaccination programme might operate”.
No one from the Department of Health was available to comment.
There is uncertainty about which NHS staff would get the vaccine first. Existing guidance says health workers “directly involved in patient care” are one of several priority groups. But primary care managers and clinicians told HSJ it must include an order of priority among staff to avoid local variation and dispute.
One said: “There would have to be a lot of local prioritisation. We know who is going to be getting it - which is everyone - but not when and in what order.”
A DH spokesperson said: “Plans for the implementation of the programme are currently being developed. We recognise the importance of ensuring that key stakeholders are properly engaged in this planning process, and we are discussing these plans with the BMA, GPC and other relevant organisations.”