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Why we need House to tackle the swine flu crisis

As the swine flu crisis worsens and PCTs work themselves into a frenzy of activity as they try to contain the uncontainable, one man has been praised by GPs for his calm and common sense.

By Steve Nowottny

As the swine flu crisis worsens and PCTs work themselves into a frenzy of activity as they try to contain the uncontainable, one man has been praised by GPs for his calm and common sense.



No, not Dr Gregory House, the maverick medical genius portrayed to popular acclaim by Hugh Laurie in the US TV drama. I'm talking about his namesake, one Adrian House, Emergency Preparedness Manager at NHS Milton Keynes.

Ever since the swine flu outbreak began, one of the biggest challenges for the NHS as a whole, and PCTs in particular, has been communication.

It's not that there hasn't been communication with GPs – the problem, in fact, is that there's been too much. I've lost count of the number of GPs who've complained they're been deluged in missives. From the PCT, from the SHA, from the HPU, from the HPA, from the Department of Health, from the RCGP, from the GPC. The list is endless.

As far back as mid-May, one GP in Devon emailed me to complain about a ‘blizzard of spam'.

‘I'm struck yet again by how extremely bad the PCTs and others have been at handling information,' he wrote. ‘Given that this is one of their major raison d'etres this is alarming.'

‘All points emails are expensive - each time one arrives, each recipient must look at it to determine whether it needs reading, then read it.'

Anecdotes are backed by the stats. A Doctors.net.uk poll released today found that 44% of GPs feel deluged with information, but that much of what was being communicated is unclear, while 16% said they have received contradictory advice.

So why single out Mr House for praise? Well, minutes from Buckinghamshire LMC report a very different experience with their PCT.

'MK GPs reported on the very useful bulletins the PCT have been sending out. Although they all contained mostly the same information, the PCT had highlighted in another colour any information that had changed from the previous issue.

This was down to one individual, Adrian House, and he was congratulated.

When he was away recently, although there were items in colour the information had not changed. Now he has returned the system is again working well.'

Colour coding emails. Such an incredibly simple yet effective idea, it seems impossible to believe that it hasn't been universally adopted across the health service.

Maybe it will be, with time. But for now, time-pressed GPs across the country dealing with an approaching pandemic will need to rely on the common sense of individuals – individuals like Mr House.

GPs have been indundated with a 'blizzard' of guidance on how to handle the swine flu outbreak GPs have been indundated with a 'blizzard' of guidance on how to handle the swine flu outbreak "It's not that there hasn't been communication with GPs – the problem, in fact, is that there's been too much." 'It's not that there hasn't been communication with GPs – the problem, in fact, is that there's been too much.'

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