A DOCTOR’S surgery has come under fire after telling patients to have their seasonal vaccine so that the practice can reap the financial benefit.

Abingdon Surgery sent the texts to patients who qualify for free seasonal vaccines, stating matter of factly that the incentivised seasonal vaccine programme ‘provides a valuable source of income' for the practice.

However a patient group has criticised the move saying patients should be free to choose whether they take up the vaccine without being put under pressure by their GP.

Herald Series:

The vaccines are offered free to at risk groups, including elderly patients and young children, with GP practices receiving funding from NHS England for each vaccine given.

However, since the government allowed pharmacists to also administer the vaccines in 2015, GP surgeries have found themselves with increasing competition for the NHS payments.

In some areas the tensions have seemingly boiled over with one surgery in Doncaster reported to the CCG for threatening to withhold repeat prescriptions unless patients had the vaccine there, while another surgery in the midlands had reportedly sent a text message to patients claiming the vaccinations were ‘less safe’ if administered by a pharmacist.

Despite the financial pressures facing GP surgeries, one patient at Abingdon Surgery said she was shocked at the wording of the text from her doctors, and felt the focus should remain on the health of the patient.

She said: “It’s awful that this is what the surgeries are reduced to - pleading for you to vaccinate your child as it increases their revenue.

“I guess at least this year they are being up front and honest about it.”

The surgery’s practice manager argued the money gained from the seasonal vaccine programme, which ‘was not a huge amount’, but provided a 'vital source' of income.

They added: "Now that local pharmacists are also allowed to deliver flu vaccinations, the text was sent, as it was last year, to encourage our patients to get their flu vaccinations with us rather than with another provider and we make no apologies for this."

However, Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, of Patient Voice said: “Patients should have the choice as to whether they take up their practice’s offer of a flu vaccination, and not be subject to undue pressure from their GP.

“They should consider the options, and the consequences carefully.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire CCG said its priority is to see as many people as possible to be vaccinated against flu.

They added: “The flu vaccination programme is commissioned by NHS England and Public Health England and funds are made available to pay both GP practices and community pharmacies to administer the vaccines.”