DoH reshapes flu pandemic plans

The UK's response to a flu pandemic must be more flexible and take into account the public's likely response, the DoH has outlined in an updated strategy for tackling flu outbreaks.

The UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy, now out for consultation, puts new emphasis on planning for a variety of scenarios and outcomes in a major flu outbreak.

It updates the 2007 National Framework that was used to counter the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

The plan focuses on the need to plan for a range of scenarios to meet the differing demands of pandemic flu viruses, instead of just focusing on the ‘worst case’ planning assumptions.

The strategy also proposes taking better account of research on how people are likely to think, feel and behave during a pandemic.

This comes after a House of Commons science and technology select committee report found GPs received 'overwhelming' and 'insufficiently co-ordinated' information about the unfolding 2009 swine flu pandemic.

The report advised that the government ‘should carefully consider the public’s assumptions about swine flu – or any new flu strain – when communicating the risks of that strain in the context of seasonal, rather than pandemic, outbreak’.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘When a pandemic hits our top priority is to protect the public. In 2009 we were fortunate - the virus was relatively mild for most people - but the threat of a more severe flu pandemic continues and it is vital to remain prepared.’

He said that although the country had been prepared for a flu pandemic for some years, there were always lessons to be learnt.

‘We have and will continue to listen to expert national and international advice on how we can improve our response to ensure that we remain one of the best-prepared countries in the world.’

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