Dedicated swine flu centres to open

HEALTH chiefs in North Essex are to launch a dedicated swine flu telephone treatment centre this week along with a number of collection points for antivirals as the potentially fatal disease continues to spread rapidly throughout the region.

Roddy Ashworth

HEALTH chiefs in North Essex are to launch a dedicated swine flu telephone treatment centre this week along with a number of collection points for antivirals as the potentially fatal disease continues to spread rapidly throughout the region.

The EADT can also reveal the intensive care unit at Colchester Hospital has been treating its first serious victim of swine flu.

The new treatment call centre will have a dedicated phone number and is designed to alleviate pressure on GPs who have been receiving an increasing number of calls as swine flu cases grow in number.


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Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health for NHS North East Essex, said: “We have been predicting and expecting the number of swine flu cases locally to escalate and this is what we are now experiencing.

“To ease the pressure on GPs, we have plans at an advanced stage for the opening of a locally-based telephone treatment call centre where trained operators will be able to offer advice and guidance to people and point them towards collection points should antivirals be prescribed.”

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He added: “Also, a number of swine flu centres are being opened at various points around north east Essex where flu friends can visit in person to receive guidance and possibly antivirals on behalf of their friend.”

The EADT understands that these centres will initially be based at the Primary Care Centre in Turner Road, Colchester, the Fryatt Hospital in Main Road, Harwich and at Kennedy House in Kennedy Way, Clacton.

“The treatment call centre will be operational from Wednesday and the telephone number will be widely publicised this week.

“In the meantime, if people think they have swine flu, they can call the national swine flu information line on 0800 1513 513 or go to www.nhs.uk to check and confirm symptoms.”

Dr Gogarty said that people should not go to their GP surgery or to Colchester General Hospital's accident and emergency department if they think they have swine flu.

Instead they should contact the above numbers by telephone.

They should also plan ahead and build up a network of “Flu Friends” they can call upon if they develop symptoms of the disease, he added.

“These could collect medicines and other supplies for you so you do not have to leave home and possibly spread the virus.

“If your Flu Friend is to have your illness checked on your behalf, then it is important they have enough knowledge of your condition, such as temperature and details of the symptoms, as well as any preexisting conditions you might have, such as diabetes or cardio vascular disease.

“Having a flu friend could also mean you will have someone to help you if you are unwell with shopping, support or general help,” he added.

“Please consider neighbours, especially older people living alone, and offer to be their flu friend as well.”

Meanwhile a spokesman for Colchester General Hospital refused to confirm that nurses in its intensive therapy unit have been treating a woman suffering from a serious case of Swine flu since early last week.

“We cannot comment on the number of Swine flu cases we may or may not have had at our hospital,” the spokesman said last night.

The dedicated phone number for the call centre will be 0800 542 0303.

The news comes as it emerged that orderrs have been placed to secure enough swine flu vaccines for the entire population under plans being drawn up by the NHS to tackle the spread of the

Virus.

Preparations are under way to ensure people are protected against the illness as soon as the first doses are produced later this year. The Department of Health said the vaccine was still being developed but it

expected supplies to start becoming available by early autumn.

By the end of the year, around 60 million doses will be available, a spokesman said. With the vaccine expected to be administered in two doses per person, this would be enough for 30 million people, according to the Department of Health.

Contracts were signed with manufacturers GSK and Baxter to supply up to 132 million doses of swine flu vaccine. In what would be the biggest vaccination programme of the last 50 years, experts will draw up a priority list of patients to be given immunity before the bug becomes more virulent.

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