Primary care trusts’ swine flu plans are now being “tested by real life events”, the Department of Health has said.

Areas with a large number of cases are putting their resilience to the test in practice before the DH’s September deadline for reviewing surge plans.

It comes after a sharp increase in cases prompted the government to abandon its containment strategy.

This means PCTs in all areas will take over distribution of antivirals from the Health Protection Agency and GPs will diagnose cases clinically rather than waiting for lab confirmation. A DH spokeswoman said: “Obviously in [the most affected] areas PCT plans are being tested by real life events and so far they are holding up well.”

However, she said the programme would test plans for a “much more severe wave”. National director for NHS flu resilience Ian Dalton has told boards to be ready to justify “surge plans” and staffing strategies by the end of September.

Royal College of GPs chair Steve Field welcomed the change from containment. He said PCTs should continue to focus on communicating with GPs. At a national level Mr Dalton was working closely with the college to manage the situation, he said.

Professor Field said: “Where flu starts to hit one particular area it is important PCT chief executives are visible to GPs.”

The government this week announced the appointment of Roy Taylor as national director for social care flu resilience.