General practice was "fantastic" at coping with the demands of the first wave of swine flu this summer, practice managers were told yesterday (6 October 2009) by a leading pandemic flu expert.
Dr Maureen Baker (pictured), Flu Pandemic Lead for the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), told delegates at the Management in Practice Birmingham Event that: "You did a brilliant job. You worked incredibly hard and this has been recognised."
Delivering the keynote address at the final Management in Practice Event of 2009, Dr Baler said: "I know that 'GP bashing' often occurs in the press, but health ministers have said that GPs and practice teams had done a fantastic job [of coping with the early onset of swine flu in the UK]."
However, Dr Baker also warned that there is still plenty of scope for an increase in cases of swine flu. She showed data revealing that, while cases of swine flu peaked at 200 per 100,000 of the population this summer, in the 1968-69 flu pandemic, new cases peaked at 700 per 100,000).
"We've got used to low-level flu in the NHS over the last few years, historically speaking," Dr Baker told delegates.
Discussing the predicted second wave of swine flu, Dr Baker said there were two concerns in particular that could cause problems for health staff: if flu cases were to peak alongside peak vaccination activity, this would present serious staffing and workload difficulties.
Also, in the event of a second wave, would the National Flu Pandemic Service, launched in England in July, protect the capacity of out-of-hours services?
Dr Baker said out-of-hours services had struggled the most with swine flu cases, due to a lack of excess capacity, and it was agreed that the National Flu Pandemic Service had brought "instant relief" to out-of-hours providers when it was introduced.
"We need to prepare for being much, much busier than we have before," Dr Baker warned managers.