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New public health surveillance system launched ahead of Olympics

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 30 April 2012

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An advanced health protection surveillance system has been launched in preparedness for the Olympic Games.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that it has established a new system for real-time syndromic surveillance of illness in the population at large, as part of its preparedness measures ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In April 2012, the Agency's Real-time Syndromic Surveillance Team (ReSST) – which is based in Birmingham but provides a national surveillance service – brought on stream an enhanced syndromic surveillance service that includes new reporting mechanisms and an upgrading of pre-existing ones.

The two principal enhancements have been: a new emergency department syndromic surveillance system (EDSSS) and a newly developed GP out-of-hours/unscheduled care syndromic surveillance system which is now providing daily reports of patients presenting to OOH services, and walk-in Centres.

The EDSSS, developed with the College of Emergency Medicine, provides for the first time in the UK a public health surveillance system for routine monitoring of more severe presentations of acute disease than was previously possible through the existing GP and NHS Direct syndromic surveillance systems.

The HPA says the two new systems will be advantageous for the Games, aiming to ensure that the public health impacts of any infectious disease outbreak or related incident (such as a heatwave) are detected as soon as possible during the summer months.

These new surveillance schemes have been used in the Agency's National Olympic Exercises to ensure that all systems are fit for purpose when the Games begin.

These new and enhanced syndromic surveillance systems will also form an important legacy of the Games, says the Agency, providing England and Wales with one of the most comprehensive public health-based syndromic surveillance programmes in the world.

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