Primary care trusts have been landed with responsibility for vaccinating all children aged between six months and five years against swine flu, after a deal could not be reached with GP leaders.

Announcing the latest extension to the swine flu immunisation programme today, the Department of Health said it had “not proved possible” to reach a national agreement with the British Medical Association for practices to give the vaccine to under fives.

We sincerely wanted to be able to reach a national agreement but this has not been possible, because the government would not support adequate measures to help free up staff time

NHS Employers had been negotiating on behalf of the UK governments with the British Medical Association’s GPs’ committee. 

As a result of the failure to reach a deal, the DH said it was asking PCTs to put local plans in place.

The DH said it hoped many GPs would still decide to offer the vaccine to under fives but, where this was not the case, PCTs should use alternatives such as their own community nursing teams.

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.”

GPC chair Lawrence Buckman 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 to put in place arrangements that are sensitive to the workload pressures in their area,” said Dr Buckman.

However, Andrew Clapperton, head of primary care workforce and contracting at NHS Employers, said: “We recognised the GPC’s concerns about additional requirements for practices, but we strongly believe that our offer of £5.25 would enable practices to do this.”

“The Department of Health is now asking primary care organisations to make local arrangements to ensure that children aged six months up to five years are offered the swine flu vaccination. The Department of Health will reimburse GP practices or other providers £5.25 per dose for each vaccination given to children aged over six months and under five years.”

PCT Network director David Stout added: “PCTs will be communicating with GPs and other healthcare providers locally to ensure children from six months to five years have access to the H1N1 vaccine. We hope that this will lead to swift local agreement.

“Providing priority groups with swine flu vaccination remains a priority for all PCTs as we continue through the winter months.”