In his second 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?

Although we are now seeing a downward trend in the numbers of people contracting swine flu, the timing of a second wave cannot be accurately forecast. The NHS has done an excellent job in preparing itself to date and we have no new information to suggest that our strategy of preparing for a second wave in the autumn is the wrong one. Managers and staff must continue to use this time to review and strengthen individual and regional wide preparedness plans to ensure we are in the best place possible should a second wave of the pandemic unfold.

We have published guidance on the supply of antivirals and primary care capacity challenges, which NHS staff can review online.

The next steps

When we announced the priority groups to receive the vaccination last week, we also announced that frontline health and social care workers across the UK will be offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical risk group.

The vaccine is being carefully assessed for safety and will be licensed before it will be used on any of the at-risk groups. We are offering the vaccine to nurses and frontline workers as a priority and I expect all NHS managers to now begin to plan how it will vaccinate staff as soon as it becomes available.

Of course vaccination is optional, but in the height of a pandemic nurses and frontline workers will be absolutely critical. Getting the swine flu vaccine will protect them, and it will protect their patients, reducing the chances of passing on the virus.

Progress to date

As I previously mentioned, the current number of cases of swine flu is on the decrease, and the HPA have published their weekly figures as usual, where you can find more details about hospitalisations and deaths.

The national pandemic flu service continues to provide provide effective support to the NHS and relieve the pressure on GPs, and around 425,000 courses of antivirals have now been collected since its launch on 23 July.