"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Flu jabs

There is a lot of grumbling about flu jabs. Clearly there has been a cockup because the uptake of flu vaccinations this winter has not been good enough, and now that cases of flu are increasing, and the numbers of people needing intensive care in hospitals are at high levels, people are starting to go to their GPs demanding a flu jab and finding that there are none available. Why? Poor planning. However, the good news is that you can get a flu jab but only if you are willing to pay Boots £12.99 or Asda £8.

But note: you have to pay. And note: if Boots or Asda have the vaccinations then your GP doesn't (but note, Dr Clare Gerada the chair of the RCGP wants restrictions on sales). Last week Newsnight interviewed a GP who complained that it was a waste of his time to be hunting for available stocks of the flu vaccination, as a GP he should have access to the stocks that he needs. He's right, NHS GPs should have access to the vaccinations they need.

There are two explanations for this cockup. The first is that Lansley is just completely incompetent, he has no clue about how to run the NHS. The other explanation is that this is how the new NHS is supposed to work: those who want the flu jab should purchase it from a pharmacy and those who actually need it can only hope that the safety net of the NHS catches them. 

I happen to think that both explanations are true: Lansley does not have the competence, nor the inclination to run the NHS and he is trying as hard as possible to rid himself of this responsibility. It is also an illustration of what the NHS will be like if Lansley's re-organisation goes through.

I am quite familiar with the complaints of the worried well (and also at risk groups) complaining that they cannot get a flu jab from their GP and have to resort to buying it from a private supplier like a pharmacy. I am also familiar with the complaints that GPs cannot get the vaccination for their patients because the pharmacies are buying up all of the stocks. I am familiar with this because I have friends in the US and these were their complaints in the winter of 2009/10. At that time I smugly explained to my American friends that such issues did not happen in the NHS. Well now it does, and the rest of the NHS will soon be like this.

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