The Royal College of Physicians has published draft guidance for NHS strategic planners and clinicians on dealing with a flu pandemic.

The RCP was already developing the guidance before the swine flu outbreak that started in Mexico last week. By yesterday there were eight confirmed cases in the UK – six in England and two in Scotland.

Blue and yellow card system

The RCP’s guidance recommends a “blue and yellow card system” for identifying which existing outpatients should be given priority and still seen even if the hospital needs to declare emergency measures to cope with and contain a pandemic.

Patients whose conditions are considered “high risk” because they are either life-threatening, life-shortening or causing them “unbearable symptoms” should be given a yellow card, the RCP recommends. This means they will be advised to stay in contact with the hospital for a week before their outpatient appointment to check if they should still come in.

Patients considered lower risk should be given a blue card which explains they should not visit the hospital if emergency measures are declared and instead call the hospital for remote advice on dealing with their condition.

Read the Royal College of Physicians’ draft guidance Preparations for Pandemic Influenza