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Monday, 27 July 2009

Wales is right to opt out of swine flu helpline – for now

Looking at some of the media coverage over the weekend and the past week in fact, it only serves to reassure me that Wales is right so far, to opt out of the National Pandemic Flu Service, now operating in England.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, attended a meeting of our GP committee last week to keep us up-to-date with what’s happening and it was agreed by everyone how well GPs and primary care are coping at the minute, as well as our hospitals - hence why we don’t need to be signing up to the flu service just yet.

The focus in Wales is to ensure that cases of swine flu, or potential cases are clinically managed and advised. This is likely to best achieve what everyone wants - clear advice and guidance, the most accurate diagnosis, and the right treatment at the right time, but not to be treated unnecessarily, or to be treated for the wrong condition.

It really is important to keep perspective on this as I mentioned here last week and to not be sucked in by the scaremongering which seems to be going on in certain areas of the media. Despite an increase in cases of swine flu in Wales, the number is still at a level that would be considered normal for flu in the winter, in others words, nothing GPs and our helath services don’t deal with every year.

Tamiflu, the ant-viral drug being prescribed for swine flu is not without side-effects, such as nausea, insomnia and irritability. As most people who’ve had swine flu report it as being no worse than a bad cold, for the otherwise healthy the treatment maybe worse than the disease and symtomatic treatment alone is all that is necessary. That doesn't of course apply to those in the at risk groupS, where Tamiflu would be indicated. But everyone is different and the decision to treat should rest between patient and doctor, as always.

What we need to ensure in Wales, is that the right decisions are made by independent and experienced health professionals, as is happening currently. That's not to say that things won't change and use of the "Flu-Line" will be welcome. However BMA Cymru Wales has faith in the Chief Medical Officer to make the right decisions for the people in Wales, at the right time, as the Chief Medical Officer and the Welsh Assembly Government has faith in GPs in Wales to deliver for their patients.

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