In his weekly update for HSJ and Nursing Times, national director for NHS flu resilience Ian Dalton discusses the latest developments in UK swine flu preparations
What should NHS staff be focusing their efforts on?
The number of new cases of swine flu has dropped slightly over the last week, with 64,000 cases being reported, down from the previous week’s 84,000. However, with the potential “half term effect”, we are not in a position to say whether this second wave of swine flu has peaked. Also slightly lower is the number of people being admitted to hospital. However, the number of patients in critical care is still relatively high, as is the number of deaths related to swine flu, which still continues to be of concern.
The vaccination programme continues to deliver protection to those people in the clinical priority groups as well as frontline health and social care staff. At the end of last week (13 November) virtually all GPs will have received their first delivery of swine flu vaccine, and from this week PCTs will be able to start to re-order stocks of the vaccine for themselves and GPs.
The next steps
Pregnant women are at a significantly increased risk of complications from swine flu, to both themselves and their babies, if they contract the virus. Getting the vaccine is a way of considerably reducing that risk and at the Department of Health we are strongly recommending that women take up the offer of the vaccination. A new leaflet, called Swine Flu and Pregnancy: how to protect yourself and your baby, has been produced to help mothers-to-be make an informed choice abut the vaccination offer. It includes information not just about the vaccination, but about precautions to take to reduce their risk of infection and available treatments if they do become ill. It will be available on the DH website and NHS Choices, and hard copies will also be sent out to GP surgeries.
Progress to date
All the latest information on numbers of flu-like illnesses, GP consultation rates, hospitalisations and deaths can be found on the HPA website.
The most up to date clinical information and guidance can be found on the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk/swineflu.