Half of GPs believe that the DoH has failed to provide them with enough information about what to do in the event of an influenza pandemic, according to a GP survey.
The survey of 310 GPs found that 49.4 per cent of GPs felt that the DoH had not provided them with sufficient information to prepare them for a pandemic.
Only a quarter of GPs said that they felt that their practice would be able to cope with the extra demands from patients during a pandemic.
Our survey also showed that 80 per cent of GPs said that they did not have access to antiviral drugs, with some GPs expressing concerns that they were unsure about what to do or to who antivirals should be given.
Professor Lindsey Davies, DoH czar for pandemic influenza preparedness, said: 'I would like to see GPs prepared for a pandemic. Planning for a pandemic is one of the NHS's top priorities for this year.
'We released the pandemic framework in November and have sent out information packs to GPs, but recognise that there is still more work to be done.'
PCTs should be planning at a local level what to do in the event of a pandemic. However, the situation is variable around the country, admitted Professor Davies.
She added that GPs should be able to prescribe antivirals to use against seasonal flu, but do not yet have access to the separate stockpile allocated for a pandemic.
The findings come as GPs in England and Scotland are being advised to prescribe the antiviral oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to fight high levels of seasonal flu.
Flu levels have exceeded the antiviral threshold of 30 cases per 100,000 in England and 50 cases per 100,000 in Scotland.
Dr Nigel Higson, a Brighton GP and virologist, warned that GPs need to be given more information on when to prescribe antivirals and to which patients.
'It is vital that the DoH provides all GPs with information that is rapid, trustworthy and appropriate,' he said.
Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, said: 'It may be that many GPs do have access to antivirals but just don't know about it because they have not been properly informed.
'The DoH has provided GPs with information via their website but it is only the GPs that go and look on the internet for the information that will find it.
'They should be also be sending out paper copies to each practice so that all GPs have the information.'
Dr Kassianos also called for PCTs to appoint teams to visit all GP surgeries in their area to ensure they are ready for a pan-demic, including organising test runs and drills.
DoH Pandemic strategy
- Patients should ideally take antivirals within 12 hours of the onset of flu symptoms and no later than 48 hours.
- Adults should receive 75mg of Tamiflu every 12 hours for five days.
- Children weighing 23kg and under require a weight-related dose of Tamiflu.
- Set up a flu hotline to get the antivirals to patients.
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