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Guidance on pandemic flu issued to GP practices

Practices told to draw up contingency plans for overdue pandemic by 31 March

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 07 January 2009

In a flu pandemic GP practices will be under "command and control arrangements" co-ordinated by their primary care trust to ensure robust and uniform provision of healthservices, new guidance says.

Practices will be expected to "buddy up" with neighbouring practices to share resources and exchange staff as necessary

The guidance produced jointly by the BMA’s GPs committee and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), and supported by the Department of Health, warns that a flu pandemic is long overdue. It will put the NHS under "unprecedented pressure" and that general practice in particular will be "stretched beyond its current limits".

During a pandemic’s peak an average GP practice is predicted to see an extra 186 cases of flu a week. The guidance says sensible preparation now will make the difference between just "getting through" a pandemic and maximising the number of lives that can be saved.

It recommends that practices have contingency plans in place by 31 March. These should include how practices can minimise the spread of infection, for example by setting up separate waiting areas for patients with flu.

During a pandemic there will be changes to the death certification process, including bringing in retired doctors to ease the pressure on local services.

Patients with flu will get access to antiviral medicine via a new National Pandemic Flu Line Service, not via their GP surgery.

Additional capacity in the health service will be created by prioritising services and patients in a systematic and ethical manner.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: "During a pandemic the NHS would have to work differently - it’s a major health emergency and as such requires a totally different way of helping patients. Family doctors need to be prepared for this and this guidance has been produced to help them with their planning.

"Plans are being put in place now to make sure general practice and the health service not only copes during the crisis, but does the best it can do to minimise the spread and impact of a flu pandemic in the UK."

Dr Maureen Baker, Honorary Secretary at the RCGP said: "This guidance provides practices with clear instructions on the steps they need to take now and during the pandemic, so that they can look after people with flu, and other emergencies, as well as can be done in very difficult circumstances."

Flu pandemic guidance

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