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Swine flu warning: 'We're in the eye of the hurricane'

The first wave of the swine flu pandemic almost overwhelmed GPs in some parts of the country, PCT managers have admitted – and the second wave may be three times as bad.

A detailed analysis from NHS Tower Hamlets – which experienced the highest rates of swine flu in the country in July – reveals the intense burden placed on GPs as they struggled to diagnose and treat cases.

The introduction of the National Pandemic Flu Service was a ‘key turning point' in management of the first wave, as it ‘lifted significant pressure off primary care services', the report concludes.

‘There was some feedback that our previous arrangements were unsustainable had the first wave increased in intensity or continued for much longer as staff were in danger of burn out.'

It adds: ‘There is widespread acceptance within Tower Hamlets that management of any further waves will be even more complex, particularly given Department of Health guidance suggesting a second 16-week wave beginning in the autumn might result in a clinical attack rate three times that experienced in the first wave.'

Modelling included in the report, and replicated in a number of similar reports by London PCTs, suggests wave two could peak in the capital as early as the end of this month, with a projected 600,000 clinical cases per week.

Dr Paddy Glackin, medical director of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘It feels like we're in the eye of the hurricane.'

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