DoH to close England's swine flu hotline as threat eases

England's swine flu hotline and web service will be shut down on 11 February, CMO Sir Liam Donaldson has announced.

The swine flu hotline proved successful in allowing GPs to focus on the patients who needed it most
The swine flu hotline proved successful in allowing GPs to focus on the patients who needed it most

In a letter outlining the decision, Sir Liam said that the National Pandemic Flu Service would be stood down at 1am on 11 February. It can be restored in seven days should such action prove necessary.

Once the service has been shut down, antivirals will only be able to be authorised by using antiviral authorisation vouchers or the right hand side of FP10 forms (endorsed 'ACP'). Antiviral collection points will continue to function until the end of March.

Further details of arrangements for antiviral prescription and collection, and a patient assessment algorithm are set out in a separate letter from Ian Dalton, England's national director of NHS Flu Resilience.

Sir Liam said the hotline had proved its worth. ‘The NPFS has been very successful in easing pressure on primary care services during the busiest times of the pandemic, allowing GPs to focus on those most ill and ensuring people get access to antivirals when they need them,' he said.

But he stressed that the low levels of flu activity and the shut down of the hotline should not lead to complacency. Contact should still be made people in the risk groups who have not yet had the vaccine, he said.

There is still considerable uncertainty about how the virus will behave over the coming months and years, he added. For instance, the 2010 season may come earlier than usual and there may be outbreaks sparked by returning travellers from countries affected by the Southern Hemisphere flu season.

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