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Swine flu 'hotspots' return amid mounting workload fears

By Lilian Anekwe

GP leaders' worst-case scenario for swine flu appears to be coming to pass, with latest figures from the Department of Health showing a re-emergence of swine flu hotspots.

The GPC recently warned decisions on buddying up and suspending routine work would be hugely more difficult if the pandemic spread unevenly.

But figures released by the Department of Health show that is exactly what is happening. Weekly consultations in England rose only slightly from 39.1 to 42.8 consultations per 100,000 population, but in some areas rates were three times that.

GP consultation rates for influenza-like illness rose above 100 per 1,000 patients in Trafford, Telford and Wrekin and Gateshead, and were more than double the national average in Sunderland, west Yorkshire and Manchester. In Northern Ireland, consultations leapt to 241 per 100,000 population, according to the latest RCGP report.

During the summer swine flu wave, weekly consultation rates in Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow and east London rose to over 500 per 100,000 population, yet the Department of Health refused to sanction scaling back routine work – insisting on a national decision.

Dr Dean Marshall, GPC negotiator on swine flu, recently told Pulse the GPC would struggle to negotiate terms of any suspension of routine work unless the pandemic spread in a uniform manner.

‘If we get hotspots, that's going to be very difficult. When individual practices are completely overrun, how do you do that with a national contract?' he said.

GPs in hotspots told of their workload. Dr Lawrence Addlestone, a GP in Manchester, said his practice had received ‘huge numbers' of swine flu cases.

‘We're exhausted. The impact on practice has been very high – morale is quite low.'

GPs in 'hotspot' areas are again under massive pressure from the pandemic GPs in 'hotspot' areas are again under massive pressure from the pandemic

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