Peter Hoskin

A lack of guidance

A lack of guidance
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If you're wading through all the swine flu coverage this morning, I'd recommend you take time to read the article by Dr John Crippen - the pseudonymous author of NHS Blog Doctor - in the Guardian.  It hints at a disorganised response to the illness in the UK:

"Today is one of those days when family doctors want to retire to a darkened room and put an ice pack on their head. Over breakfast, I saw the newspaper headline: 'Swine flu deaths spark worldwide health alert'.

I have not been 'alerted'. None of my partners has been 'alerted' either. There is a general assumption that GPs will already have received definitive guidance from on high. No such guidance has arrived." Eventually, he had to put several calls in to get some guidance:

"I phoned the local infection control microbiologist. She was in a meeting 'discussing influenza'. Next, I phoned the virology department at the local teaching hospital. The medical staff there were in a similar meeting. My third call was to a London teaching hospital. I struck lucky and was put through to the virology professor. Her meeting was not until lunchtime. Her advice was clear. Those most likely to be affected are people who have just arrived back from Mexico, Texas, parts of southern California and New York state. If they get any flu-type symptoms, they should not go to work but stay indoors and phone their doctor. If the symptoms suggest genuine influenza, we will arrange for nasal swabs and then, having taken advice from the local Health Protection Agency, consider prescribing one of the anti-influenza drugs such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)"

The talk of a global pandemic may be overblown.  But it may not be.  In which case, it's quite worrying if GPs aren't swiftly given the most basic information they need.