Wales Will Not Join National Pandemic Flu Service
Health Minister Edwina Hart is reminding people that Wales will not be part of the National Pandemic Flu Service (NPHS) when it goes live in England tomorrow [Thursday, 23 July].
Wales, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, will still be able to plug into the service if and when it is required.
The NPFS will be made up of a dedicated website and a central call centre that assesses people on symptoms of swine flu and authorises antiviral treatments. It is being introduced in England in response to operational pressure.
Mrs Hart said that existing primary care routes would continue to be used to manage treatment in Wales as this provides the opportunity for clinical engagement using familiar services.
Mrs Hart said: "Wales is well behind the curve compared to areas of England in terms of the numbers of swine flu cases. While there has been an increase in the number of swine flu cases over the last week, it is comparable to what we would see with normal seasonal flu. In terms of access to advice and treatment, the advice remains the same in Wales."
"If the symptoms are causing concern, or people are in an at-risk group such as those with a chronic condition like heart or lung disease, children under 5 or pregnant women, they should phone their GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 as they are a priority for early antiviral treatment. For those who need antiviral treatment, there are plenty of supplies available across Wales. People in the high risk groups will benefit from antivirals most if taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. People with flu-like symptoms should not go to their A&E, local GP or pharmacy in case they spread the virus to others. Such visits cause undue pressure and potential delay for other patients who are in need of emergency services."
"We will continue to focus on providing care and support to people through existing services that they are more familiar with and comfortable with using for as long as possible. I want to thank NHS staff for their hard work. In an effort to reduce pressure on the NHS, particularly GPs, the local NHS in Wales is developing patient contact arrangements through GPs, out of hours and call centres to support GPs who are getting an increase in swine flu-related calls. As of Monday, 20 July, we have improved the access to antiviral treatment by enabling GPs to write prescriptions which can be dispensed in Community Pharmacies in the normal way. Access to the solution for the treatment for the under one year infants remains via hospital pharmacy and the GP Out of Hours service for the time being."
"As part of our preparation for further increases in cases, we are also training more call handlers for NHS Direct, as Scotland did to cope with their recent cases, and arrangements will be made to filter calls quickly when patients ring NHS Direct Wales so that people with swine flu symptoms – as well as those phoning in with other calls – are dealt with as effectively as possible. In Wales, the local NHS has always planned on responding to a pandemic with up to 50 per cent attack rate, and we have no requirement to join the NPFS at this point in time."
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said: "We are seeing an increase in the number of cases in Wales as we would expect given the community spread in other parts of the UK. This will no doubt increase over the coming weeks and months. We estimate that up to 30 per cent of the population could catch swine flu at some point over the next 12-18 months.
"The virus is proving to be mild for most people and so most can self-care and will recover without the need for antivirals within five to seven days. In Wales, at the moment, the number of cases is comparable to what we would see in seasonal flu epidemic. We are therefore enhancing existing services that people know and understand. We are continually monitoring the situation closely."