Swine flu policy remains based on containment

GPs should continue with containment measures to control the spread of swine flu, despite the WHO declaring a pandemic, according to the RCGP.

There has been a surge in the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK and across the globe in recent weeks.

Currently, the HPA estimates that more than 800 patients in the UK have swine flu, but experts have warned that the true figure could be double this, as many cases are going undetected.

More than 1,200 people have contracted the virus in Australia, with a four-fold increase in just a week. The WHO believes that this sharp rise indicates that the pandemic level, phase 6, has been reached.

Current BMA/RCGP guidance states that once phase 6 has been reached, the focus should shift from efforts to contain or delay the spread to minimising the impact of a pandemic.

But Professor Steve Field, chairman of the RCGP, told GP that there would need to be evidence of the virus spreading across the whole of the UK before GPs moved away from the containment measures to treating patients.

'I do not think a move to pandemic level will change any-thing for GPs.

'The workload has increased in some areas such as Birmingham, where the Badger out-of-hours service has been doing very well to deal with the situation.

'Heart of Birmingham PCT has had 11 cases of swine flu, and my own practice has seen a couple of cases. But there are also some areas of the country that are still to have any cases.'

Only when the virus has spread across the UK do we need to look at additional measures such as suspending the QOF and bringing in retired GPs to bolster the workforce, added Professor Field.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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- This information was correct as GP went to press. For the latest information go to www.healthcarerepublic.com/swineflu

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