Swine flu plans help flood-hit practices cope

GPs 'worked all weekend' to offer co-ordinated response to once-in-a-millennium Cumbrian floods.

Flooding in Cockermouth: two of the town's surgeries have relocated

Buddying-up plans developed to cope with swine flu have helped maintain services in practices hit by the flooding in Cumbria, GP can reveal.

NHS Cumbria's medical director, Dr Mike Bewick, a former GP, said GPs quickly put together a recovery team. They had 'worked all weekend' to provide additional services, he said.

Two of Cockermouth's three practices, serving 15,000 patients, were closed last Friday having been severely affected by flooding. Their services have been relocated to Cockermouth community hospital.

The town's third practice, which has 3,000 patients, has remained open.

Dr Peter Higgins, chief executive of Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs, said preparations for swine flu had helped ensure practices' business continuity plans were up-to-date.

The county's strong focus on localised leadership had meant practices were already working with one another and with community hospitals, he said.

'What happened in Cockermouth and Workington is something that happens every 1,000 years, but GPs have coped to some extent,' he added.

An NHS Cumbria spokesman said that the county was in 'a business continuity environment' through its work on swine flu.

The impact of the flooding was different to that expected from swine flu in its nature and intensity, he said, but work to maintain services was all part of business continuity planning.

The PCT has also been able to learn from experiences of flooding in 2005, he added.

The spokesman said that strong GP representation in the PCT leadership had been an important factor.

Keswick's two GP surgeries are open as normal and in Workington additional GP surgeries will be provided. These have been arranged for patients who have problems accessing their own practices due to bridge and other road closures.

GPs in Workington will also be providing some services in a local pharmacy and a community hospital to improve accessibility for patients affected by the floods.

Patients with non-urgent medical queries are being advised to contact NHS Direct.

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