Attempts to ease the pressures on GPs caused by swine flu have been welcomed by British Medical Association GPs committee chairman Dr Laurence Buckman.

He said the national pandemic flu service will free up time for doctors to deal with non-flu patients.

It will also ensure that in cases of flu they can concentrate their efforts and resources on those with other risk factors or more severe symptoms, he said.

Dr Buckman added: “It’s important to remember that for otherwise healthy people, self-care will generally be the most appropriate way to deal with swine flu.

“This means staying at home to avoid spreading the virus, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen at regular intervals to relieve symptoms.”

Health secretary Andy Burnham has confirmed that telephone and online help will be accompanied by a “major public information campaign”, after which people will no longer need to ring their GP.

He said: “They can either answer questions online, via the new website, or ring the call centre service, where trained staff will be able to assess them over the phone.”