Irish GPs paid five times UK rate for flu vaccine


FAMILY DOCTORS in the Republic are being paid almost five times more to administer the seasonal flu vaccine to patients than their counterparts in the UK.

Minister for Health Mary Harney drew attention to the price differential yesterday at a conference in Dublin, pointing out that GPs here get paid €38.95 to administer the seasonal flu vaccine to patients. In the UK GPs get paid £7.51 (€8.30) for doing the same job.

Under a deal reached last week between the National Health Service (NHS) and the British Medical Association, GPs in the UK and Northern Ireland will be paid £5.25 (€5.80) to administer each dose of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine. It is expected each patient will be given two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart, bringing the total payment to GPs per patient in the UK to £10.50.

While Ms Harney referred to the price differential to illustrate how costs differ across health systems, her remarks are likely to be seen as a shot across the bow for GPs here in terms of what they can expect to be paid for administering swine flu vaccinations. The fee is likely, in the current economic climate, to be significantly less than what they are paid for administering the seasonal flu vaccine.

However, no consultation has taken place yet with Irish GPs on how much they can expect to be paid. The Health Service Executive (HSE) said this was a matter for the Department of Health.

The department said it was waiting to see when the vaccine was delivered as if it arrived in smaller batches it may well be that public health nurses and doctors may be able to administer the first phase of vaccinations.

“The commencement of the vaccine programme will be dependent on a number of factors, including the licensing of the vaccine and the timing of receipt of stocks. Planning is at an advanced stage, and provides for a number of scenarios, including using general practitioners to vaccinate those at risk, and details are soon to be finalised.

“It will be October before vaccination starts, and we will announce the plans for vaccinating the entire population early that month.”

Dr Ronan Boland, chairman of the GP committee of the Irish Medical Organisation, said while the IMO had a series of meetings with the HSE in relation to influenza pandemic planning, including a mass vaccination programme, it had not met the executive since July 21st.

“We have had no direct contact with them since then. We have not been advised of the HSE’s plans on who they intend to vaccinate, where they will vaccinate or by whom. And at no stage did we have any discussion with the HSE, the Department of Health or the Minister on the possible cost of administering the vaccination programme.”

Due to competition law, which has still not been amended despite promises to do so this time last year, the IMO cannot negotiate a fee for administering the vaccine on behalf of its members. Instead fees are usually set after a short consultation process during which doctors are allowed to put forward their views.