GPs may lose power over flu vaccine as winter death toll climbs to 254

Family doctors could lose control of ordering flu vaccines as latest figures reveal 254 people have died with the virus this winter.

The figure is substantially up on 112 last week but officials said this was due to lags in recording deaths occurring, mainly in younger adults and children.

Overall flu rates are declining, with 418 patients with suspected flu in critical care in England, down from 661 last week.

Health chiefs in West Yorkshire yesterday issued a new plea to people in the higher at-risk category with long-term ailments to get vaccinated amid evidence only 40 per cent to 50 per cent have come forward.

In a surprise move, Prof David Salisbury, the Department of Health's director of immunisation, said there was a "pretty compelling" case for the Government to take charge of ordering vaccines.

His call came a day after Ministers set out plans to give GPs control of NHS funds worth 80bn.

The Government has been forced to release emergency supplies of vaccines amid claims GPs under-ordered to save money, leading to shortages.

Patient David Mansfield, 61, of Weeton, near Leeds, who has asthma, told the Yorkshire Post he had contacted his surgery more than a month ago but was told there was no vaccine available.

Last night public health consultant Simon Balmer, from NHS Leeds, said an appointment would be arranged and apologised for the inconvenience.

"I can reassure local people that flu vaccine is available in Leeds and there is enough for everyone who is eligible to have the jab," he said.