Board game is launched to help practices beat swine flu

Swine flu Dr Nigel Higson plays the Flu Pandemic Game.

I played the Flu Pandemic Game one evening with two members of my practice team - a practice nurse and a receptionist. The addition of a glass or two of wine was probably helpful.

The flu pandemic game

The DoH has launched a board game to help practices prepare for pandemic flu.

To test its effectiveness and to look at the issues it raises Hove GP Dr Nigel Higson played the game last week with other members of staff from his practice.

What you need to play:

  • Three to eight players.
  • Flu Pandemic Game resource pack (download at www.dh.gov.uk).
  • Dice.
  • Pens or pencils.

Our biggest difficulty was finding dice, but we solved it by making one out of cardboard and sticky tape.

The game - 'a business continuity training resource for GP practices' that you can download from the DoH website - is based on probabilities to determine the chance of practice staff catching swine flu and the impact that would have on the practice. Using throws of the dice to simulate the likely attack rate of flu together with wild cards at different stages is a reasonably realistic description of what might happen during the main phase of a major pandemic.

As we played, the number of staff affected by swine flu increased progressively. Fortunately, most of our staff lived within walking distance of the practice and do not have young children. This meant that wild cards for disruption of public transport and the need to stay home to care for children would not hit our staffing rotas.

The game stimulated discussion about how the practice would cope. We already have in place systems for staff working from home. The game reinforced the need for this and demonstrated how practices have to use web information and emails to inform patients.

We had hoped that information released by the DoH would encourage self-management rather than panic in patients. Our experience to date has regrettably been the opposite.

Because of the game we are aiming to increase our stock of toilet paper and biscuits in case of supply shortages. We realised that we would need to have a means of changing messages on our telephone system as the pandemic progressed, which we cannot currently do.

While I don't expect practices to play the game with all doctors, nurses, cleaners and receptionists for an hour or more, it is useful for the management team to role play.

Perhaps the game could be used at a local meeting of practice managers. GP practices have always found ways of managing changing demand, and sharing ideas and experiences between practices is greatly beneficial.

So go for it: encourage your primary care organisation or the local practice managers' group to get together and see how your area might fare if the nightmare comes true.

GPletters@haymarket.com

  • Dr Nigel Higson is chairman of the Primary Care Virology Group and a GP in Hove, East Sussex

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