GPs may be put under "unprecedented pressure" in a flu pandemic, medical authorities in England have predicted.
New guidance for GPs from the British Medical Association's (BMA) GP Committee and the Royal College of General Practitioners claims that a flu pandemic is overdue for England, and it could see the NHS stretched "beyond its current limits".
The guidance says that surgeries should "buddy up" with neighbouring practices to share medical equipment and staff, as it is predicted that during an epidemic, the average GP will be hit by an extra 186 cases of flu in a week.
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said that strains on the NHS have been seen before with flu outbreaks, but PCTs and GPs need to be prepared for the future.
He added: "We've seen over Christmas how seasonal winter pressures put strain on the health service.
"During a pandemic the NHS would have to work differently. So plans are being put in place now to make sure general practice and the health service does the best it can do to minimise the spread and impact of a flu pandemic in the UK."
Copyright © Press Association 2009
We asked what you think about the NHS's ability to cope with a flu pandemic. Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"More 'healthy' people should be encouraged to pay for their own flu jab, not only to reduce their personal risk, but also to reduce spread among the population. Nobody actually wants to be ill in bed for several days ..." - Sarah Buckley, Norwich
"I feel that there is not enough health education on television or radio. People seem unable to cope with minor ailments, not to mention the more serious ones; and so if we are busy with very ill people the work will be doubled by people who could manage the problems at home." - Heather Francis, Hertfordshire
"I do wish education could be increased by the media to improve the uptake of flu vaccine. We still have at-risk patients refusing the injection, despite our continued efforts at educating on the benefits of having same." - V Henry, UK
"Sadly, H5N1 or bird flu continues to spread around the world slowly like a bad weed. H5N1 just cropped up agin in Vietnam and China. H5N1 is in India resulting in killing thousands of chickens and export bans of eggs and poultry. Another issue is
maintaining delivery of medications during and after a pandemic, from heart medications to birth control to maintenance medications for ADHD and autism. Regulatory and normalcy can partially sustain if planned for. We still have no defense against it other than hand washing, social distancing and staying home. It is not all bad news. If you believe you can do something about global warming or autism, do know you can do something to protect yourself and others. On Wednesday Jan 28th, 2008 the USA dept of Health (HHS) will have its ninth webcast on pandemic plans.You can email your questions beforehand." - Kobie, USA
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