Friday, 3 July 2009

The NHS Flu Pandemic Plan vs reality

Anyone who watched Sir Liam Donaldson and the new health minister, Andy Burnham, yesterday afternoon would have been “impressed” at how far on the United Kingdom is in its preparation to counter swine flu (according to them).

GPs will now diagnose swine flu using a checklist and there will be Tamiflu distribution points (TamDPs in grunt speak? Sounds a bit like damned MPs?). We await with (no) interest further details as the medical press are saying that Primary Care Trusts or the local Politburos will take over in a military style command structure to direct GPs in the event of a pandemic.

Excellent idea! Appoint people who cannot provide decent health care to a population that is predominantly well to a position of a General to command an army in the midst of a crisis?

Vicky Pollard does D-day ? Whatever.

But we digress. This post is about the reality on the ground. We have already posted about the availability of Tamiflu (June 16) but this is what is happening here in Northernshire.

A local GP has been having a phantom pregnancy of swine flu for the last 2 weeks having had it themselves for this long. They saw an unwell child with a fever and diagnosed swine flu in the wee child. They then rang the Health Protection Agency to ask what to do.

An hour later they got through and were told to go to the local A&E department to get swabs. They got the last one issued as the local A&E had all but run out of swabs and were refusing to issue them to GPs. The patient and family were confined to barracks to prevent spread of the flu and then the practice waited for the swab results under the impression that it would take 48 hours.

This was over a week ago. No swab results but daily phone calls from the confined to barracks parent whose child was better 24 hours after seeing the GP asking if they could leave the house? The answer was no until the swab result came back. You can imagine the angst here.

If the swabs came back positive would Tamiflu be issued given our experience thus far? Or would there have to be an urgent convening of the local Soviet of Tamiflu Guardians (next week) to decide if they could afford to issue any Tamiflu and to whom?

Now we as far as we know have no confirmed cases of Swine flu in our part of Northernshire but if the checklist for GPs goes along the lines of:

1) Do you feel poorly?
2) Has anyone you know, or yourself, been to a Spanish speaking country in the last 12 months?

Can we see what will follow next?

We are now entering the “treatment” phase. Given that virtually every patient with a cold or sore throat has self diagnosed themselves with “flu” before they even see a GP could we have a run on Tamiflu akin to what happened when the Northern Rock building Society was rumoured to be in a bit of bother?

Praise be to the Party and its Plans. With all its Prudent management of the UK economy we know we are in safe hands during the flu pandemic. The grunts on the ground will just have to cope as best we can.

Still we can practise using the Department of Health’s NHS Flu pandemic game here (they have been such busy boys and girls here haven’t they?) or a more interactive game here. Thanks to Dr Grumble for these little gems.

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