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GP leaders attack 'mad' swine flu strategy

By Steve Nowottny

The GPC has condemned the Government's locally led response to the swine flu outbreak as ‘mad' and urged it to develop clear national guidance on preparing staff and accessing swabs, facemasks and antivirals.

Its criticism came as the number of confirmed cases in the UK rose today to 65, with a further 336 potential cases under laboratory investigation.

Pulse has learned that trusts and health boards are taking starkly differing approaches to mobilising a reserve of retired doctors to help out in the event of a full-blown pandemic.

Government guidance calls for trusts to contact retired doctors at World Health Organization phase five - which was declared two weeks ago - and some, such as NHS Hammersmith and Fulham, are contacting all GPs on their performers list, which includes recently retired GPs.

But most PCTs contacted by Pulse last week said they did not plan to do so at this stage. NHS Bury said doing so was ‘not seen as appropriate at this level of alert'.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman condemned what he claimed was a patchwork strategy to tackle the crisis, which has seen complaints from some GPs of insufficient support and poor access to key supplies.

There have been wide local variations in the response to the outbreak, with practices in Bury, for instance, being provided with 48 facemasks each, while in other areas such as Birmingham and Sefton GPs have been told to buy their own.

Dr Buckman said while some national guidance was in place, the Department of Health should ‘absolutely definitely' be taking a one-size-fits-all approach on local pandemic preparations instead of leaving it to PCOs.

‘That was really mad,' he said. ‘They should have planned it all in one go.'

‘We said we wanted national guidance and instead they've done it PCO by PCO. It's the way the Government does things these days. I would never have made it local – but that's how it is so that's what we're doing.'

Meanwhile the Government has admitted that supplies of seasonal flu vaccine could be affected by the imminent production of a swine flu vaccine.

Dr Laurence Buckman: Government approach to swine flu 'mad' Dr Laurence Buckman: Government approach to swine flu 'mad'

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