In his third weekly update for HSJ and Nursing Times, national director for NHS flu resilience Ian Dalton discusses the expected autumn swine flu surge

What should NHS staff be focusing their efforts on?

The Social Partnership Forum, which brings together NHS Employers, trade unions and the Department of Health, has issued a statement thanking NHS staff for their efforts and contribution to the UK response to the swine flu pandemic. We will continue to engage in discussions with the forum on preparations for the possible second wave as well and other important topics such as the health and wellbeing of the workforce, and the NHS operating framework.

The next steps

There is work under way across all strategic health authorities at the moment to help ensure that we have enough critical care capacity to meet any increased demand caused by the swine flu pandemic. That work is being finalised and the results will be published in due course. We will also be carrying out whole system stress testing exercises designed by the Health Protection Agency in each SHA in September. These exercises build on the preparedness work that organisations have already done and will help them understand exactly how ready they are to deal with a possible second wave of the pandemic, giving time to put in place any additional measures if required. 

We are also working across the social care sector to make sure plans are in place for social care to meet the challenges of the pandemic. I work very closely with the social care flu resilience team and Roy Taylor, who heads up that area, has asked the sector to revisit its current pandemic flu plans and review guidance to ensure as much as possible is being done in this crucial sector.

Frontline social care workers will also be offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical risk group and healthcare colleagues. Plans are  being developed to deliver the vaccination to those frontline social care workers who are eligible. It will be important to take up the offer of the vaccination to reduce the risk of infection and increase resilience of the sector.

Progress to date

The HPA have published their weekly figures, where you can find more details about hospitalisations and deaths. As mentioned, the current number of cases of swine flu is on the decrease, and weekly GP consultation rates also continued to decrease

I would also like to alert you to a statement and guidance that the Department for Children, Schools and Families has issued regarding advice for schools. The Department of Health had input into this information.