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Top GPs accuse Government of causing panic over swine flu

By Ian Quinn

Leading GPs have accused NHS chiefs and ministers of ratcheting up fear over swine flu and have urged them to act now to calm patient panic causing mayhem in practices.

Dr Sam Everington, a GP in Tower Hamlets, who has acted as a leading adviser to Lord Darzi on primary care and was formerly deputy chair of the BMA, said scaremongering by the Department of Health had seen the nation gripped with fear, leading to ‘utter chaos' for practices in areas with the most number of cases.

He said: ‘All this is being ratcheted up by the CMO and the Government. They are actively scaremongering everybody.'

‘We have no evidence that this is in any way worse than winter flu, yet the approach has been taking clinicians away from more serious problems with patients and causing great fear among the public.'

Dr Everington, whose practice has been among those in the front line, with London one of the worst hit areas, added: ‘We as GPs are used to measuring risk but there's nothing of that sort going on in the Department of Health.'

Of Sir Liam Donaldson he said: ‘It's almost like he's been preparing for this pandemic flu for so long he wants it to be fulfilled.'

‘But I challenge anyone in the Government to come out and say this is worse than ordinary winter flu. It's clearly not.'

Dr Everington was backed by Dr Michelle Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, who said: 'There's a hugely disproportionate response which is causing GPs severe problems in hotspot areas.

'If the correct message had been given out to patients and a correct communications strategy to the public, I don't think practices would be flooded with demand.'

Dr Everington, who said he was being bombarded by up to 100 calls a day, also criticised the BMA's call to suspend the QOF in areas hardest hit, saying: ‘There a big danger it will just play to the hands of politicians who think GPs just think about money.'

He also disagreed with the Government and the BMA about the idea of patients holding swine flu parties to catch the disease, saying it could be a good idea for healthy patients.

‘For many people there's a logic in everyone catching it in the summer,' he claimed.

A spokesperson for the DH said: 'Swine flu is a new disease that has not yet been fully characterised. So far the majority of cases have been mild but in a minority - especially those with underlying conditions - it is proving to be severe.

'Flu can and does change suddenly and the NHS must be prepared to respond. Being open with the public means giving them a full and balanced picture of the situation - not simply bland reassurance that all will be well.'

Dr Sam Everington: DH has been scaremongering patients and causing chaos at practices Dr Sam Everington: DH has been scaremongering patients and causing chaos at practices

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