British Medical Association opposes move to centralise procurement of flu jab vaccines

19 August 2011

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19 August 2011 | Angeline Albert  

The British Medical Association (BMA) has rejected the UK government’s proposals to centralise the procurement of flu jabs, saying it has overestimated the savings potential.

The BMA, a trade union representing 145,000 doctors and medical students, is opposed to any move to centralise the purchase of vaccinations, and made this clear in its response to the Departmentof Health’s consultation on the issue – A review of the procurement of the seasonal flu vaccine.

The BMA does not believe the proposals would improve vaccination uptake in England or prevent jab shortages.

The consultation assumes that discounts of between 30 per cent and 40 per cent are available to GPs. However in its response, the BMA said: “The government has overestimated potential savings and we are not convinced that bulk procurement of vaccine would achieve further savings of as high as £20-25 million as has been suggested. Although having providers competing for these bulk purchases would drive costs down initially, the fact that many GPs might find that there was little economic argument to continue vaccinating may result in the costs of vaccinating rising, as few other vaccinators could do it at the marginal costs delivered by NHS GPs.”

The BMA explained that with “no uplift to GP net pay in 2011-12”, it was extremely concerned about “yet another potential loss of GPs’ income streams” and “fails to see how central procurement would increase immunisation rates”. It said: “This proposal could actually reduce the incentives for practices that currently have a huge incentive to use their immunisations on the margins of their order unless they have sale or return.”

The BMA said moving to centralised procurement of seasonal flu vaccine “would risk making matters worse”. It also said consideration needs to be given to how flu vaccines will be delivered to practices when PCTs no longer exist.

The organisation said the current system in England works well but what was needed is to build on the existing system by giving legal permission for practices and PCTs to share stocks and for PCT clusters and their successors to hold emergency stocks that could be called on in exceptional situations.

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