GP leaders warn of 'impossible' workload as swine flu pandemic set to be declared
By Steve Nowottny
GP practices face an 'impossible' workload as they struggle to deal with spiralling numbers of swine flu cases, LMC leaders were told today, as the world prepared to move to the highest state of alert.
The World Health Organisation is reported to be about to declare a global flu pandemic this afternoon, by moving its pandemic alert level to Phase 6.
Dr Peter Holden - the GPC's lead negotiator on swine flu - warned practices in hard-hit areas faced an unsustainable burden.
He told LMC leaders: 'The key issue we have to get across at the moment is that in those areas where there the workload on those practices locally is impossible in the medium term, it's difficult in the short term - and they will have to consider ways of alleviating that burden.'
He also called on the Health Protection Agency to issue advice on GPs regarding swabbing and issuing antivirals more quickly.
'We need the Health Protection Agency, who have generally been OK - there have been a few problems this week - to understand GPs cannot wait two hours while they shilly shally around.'
Dr Holden was speaking ahead of a meeting with the Chief Medical Officer later this evening - and warned that swine flu preparations in the UK were now likely to accelerate.
'It's end of stakeholder consultation time,' he said. 'It's JFDI-edict time.'
According to the latest Health Protection Agency figures there have now been 822 confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK.
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appealed for calm.
He said: ‘We must maintain optimum levels of vigilance but there is no cause for alarm. Although the virus is highly contagious, it has not mutated to a more virulent form.
‘The move to level 6 will automatically trigger a shift in production from seasonal to pandemic vaccinations. Preparations to deal with large numbers of cases should go ahead, especially on the 'flu-line' and for anti-viral distribution.
‘In the absence of sustained and widespread community transmission in the UK, we should maintain a 'business as usual' approach.'Swine flu: world moving to highest level of alert Swine flu: world moving to highest level of alert