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Schoolgirl sparks swine flu chaos

Chaos at a London NHS clinic that ensued after staff were "panicked" by a schoolgirl with suspected swine flu has been detailed by her mother in The Lancet medical journal.

Central to the saga was whether patients suspected of having the virus should pick up drugs themselves or stay at home and have them delivered.

The girl's mother, Sarah Baker, had struggled from the outset, starting with confusion at her GP's surgery in Hammersmith, west London, about whether her daughter qualified for drugs at all.

"No", said a doctor, because the girl was an "out-of-London temporary resident". "Yes", said Buckinghamshire Health Protection Agency, after protracted enquiries.

The agency instructed mother and daughter to go home and await delivery of Tamiflu by a district nurse, who would also take swabs to test for flu.

The girl was then told to go to the nearest walk-in centre, Parsons Green, in Fulham. Said Mrs Baker: "My daughter duly obeyed, and arrived at the centre where she asked for the oseltamivir and relevant tests. Panic ensued. She was swiftly taken to an isolation room and left there. About 20 minutes later, she was told unequivocally to leave the building."

Her doctor again insisted she should stay home and wait for the drugs to be delivered. No, said the nurse, she must collect them – from the same Parsons Green clinic.

A spokesman from Hammersmith and Fulham PCT commented: "Clearly, Mrs Baker was given some bad advice, which led to this unfortunate situation, and we are looking into it.

"The correct advice to people with flu-like symptoms is to stay at home. If antivirals are needed they will either be delivered or a 'flu friend' may be asked to collect them."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Department of Health - swine flu

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Obviously, messages on procedures are not being communicated, which has led to this incident. Bulletins arrive at my practice daily in addition to reinforcement of procedures. Unless it has changed since this email, the patient should remain at home, telephone contact is made to assess, and a
flu friend outside the household attends to collect the medication or the prescription" - V Henry, London