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NHS could struggle if there is a flu pandemic

14th May 2009

Reports suggest the NHS may struggle to cope if a flu pandemic occurs.

A document from Birmingham University, produced from a survey of 1,000 health workers, indicated that as many as 85% of them may be absent from work as a result.

But while this is more than double official predictions of up to 35% absence, leading doctors countered the claim saying the NHS would cope because of good planning.

Arrangements are in place for the cancellation of non-emergency treatments and operations, plus a network of GPs to share resources to spread the pressure, particularly with the current swine flu outbreak.

The Birmingham University poll asked a range of staff from doctors and nurses to support staff and managers about how they thought they would cope.

A key reason for absence was caring for their children and family members, school closures and disrupted transport.

One of the report’s authors Dr Sarah Damery said: "It raises questions about the ability of the NHS to cope. The problem is that there are no easy answers.

"Things such as transport and accommodation can be resolved, but the major factor that would influence people staying away is to do with caring responsibilities and these are not that easy to solve."

The Royal College of GPs said the 85% absence figure was an overestimate and that the NHS would cope through planning and staff rising to meet the challenge.

The Department of Health played down the findings saying NHS staff had a strong professional ethic and sense of duty to help.


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Article Information

Title: NHS could struggle if there is a flu pandemic
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 11367
Date Added: 14th May 2009


BBC News

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