Tuesday, 15 December 2009



I sent this email to the National Pandemic Flu line - 

"Yesterday my grandson aged 9 was too poorly to go to school so my husband and I went over to look after him. He had been running a high temperature all night, was alternately hot & cold and had a bad headache.

We administered Calpol as necessary but he was obviously feeling very unwell and did not know what to do with himself. However, at that stage I was not too concerned but when he asked for the curtains to be drawn as he did not like the light alarm bells started ringing. Having had first hand experience of meningitis a few years ago I asked him if he had a stiff neck etc to which he replied no. But I was still worried.

After about an hour I thought I would check with our GP but it was his half day. I rang the covering surgery who had no Doctors available until after 3 p.m. I was asked if he had flu symptoms and I said I thought it might be flu or meningitis or just another virus but as I was not qualified to make a diagnosis I wanted him to see a Doctor. I was given another number to ring, repeated the story again & was told to ring the flu line**. Why, I asked, he needs to see a Doctor not have a diagnosis made over the phone. By this time my patience was running out and I said I would take him to A & E. YOU CAN’T DO THAT I was told, HE MIGHT HAVE SWINE FLU. Or, he might have meningitis says I repeating he needs to see a Doctor. O.K. I will get someone to ring you says the receptionist and down goes the phone.

Time to get my daughter home from work I thought; if he was really ill

a) He would want his Mum and

b) She had to make any decisions.

My daughter came home and the first thing she did was give him Ibuprofen on the advice of a Doctor at the hospital where she works. Apparently Calpol will not reduce a very high temperature but Ibuprofen will. A very useful bit of information this – Calpol every 4 hours with Ibuprofen in between again at 4 hourly intervals.

Back to the saga, Daughter rings covering surgery, they did not want him to be taken there. A&E would not see him. '***** doctors ' comprising a team of local GP’s eventually agreed to send a doctor. Hurray, at last. By this time 3 hours or more had passed.

Then the phone rang, ' ***** Doctors' here, can you bring him to us? Yes,  we will get him to you somehow although it meant my daughter, me, my grandson and baby grand daughter getting in the car, going to the hospital, dropping me & my grandson off, daughter had to go find a parking space and then make her way to the surgery.( I should explain that my husband  had gone to pick grandchild number 3 up from school!)

As luck would have it, my parking angel was listening, a space was found as close to the entrance as possible and we all trooped in. By this time, the Ibuprofen had kicked in, Grandson feeling a little better, temperature reduced and after examination we were told that he thought it was not meningitis but possibly ordinary flu.

So all ended happily after such a difficult time, simply because of the protocol now in place regarding swine flu. The stupidity of it all comes to light when I tell you that the '***** Doctors' surgery is …………… wait for it ……………….. part of the local A & E department sharing the same reception area.

What a farce.

**PS. My daughter went on the flu line to check it out, answered all the questions regarding his symptoms and was  given a number to go and get Tami flu for him! Yes, he would have been classed as having swine flu, added to the statistics and been given medication he did not need and might have made him very poorly. All without seeing a doctor.

This system is not working."

I have deliberately not given information to enable you to identify this case as I am protective of my family who work in the NHS.

I can assure you that the above is  a true account of what happened and you really need to reassess your protocol in this matter.

What would have happened if he had had meningitis - the delay of several hours could have made an enormous difference to his recovery or not as the case might be.




27th NOVEMBER – Reply

I am in receipt of your email. I am sorry that you have had this experience.

The web site is for those who believe that they have swine flu and this is clearly stated at the front of the site. There are other sites where symptoms can be checked including http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pandemic-flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx which is the Deaprtment of Health's information website.

It is not policy of the National Pandemic Flu Service that these services operate in this way.

The National Pandemic Flu Service Operates the Helpline and the website and is not in charge of doctors services or the Hospital services. Doctors Services, including out of hours doctors are managed by the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Hospitals by the Hospital Trust concerned. These two organisations are informed about the Flu Service operation but unfortunately we cannot regulate the way they decide to operate. **This would have to be referred to the PCT and they would need to be aware of the doctors surgeries or organisations involved. Any Hospital Issues should be referred to the Hospital Complaints Manager.

If you would like to supply details of the doctors and hospital I can pass these issues on to the relative organisations involved and let you know the contact details of those involved.

However without this I am not able to help you any further. If I can be of assistance in this please let me know. I hope your grandson is now recovering.

29th NOVEMBER – my response

Thank you for your response but you have completely missed the point. My criticism is primarily of your organisation.

It is you who provides the diagnosis either on the website or by phone as far as I am aware and it is this diagnosis that I think is wrong. It is not possible to make an accurate diagnosis without seeing a Doctor and the protocol in place prevents, discourages seeing a doctor. Everything is geared to push the patient to the helpline.

Quote : What is the National Pandemic Flu Service and how does it work?

The National Pandemic Flu Service is a new self-care service that will give people with swine flu symptoms fast access to information and antivirals.

It is a dedicated website and a phoneline (0800 151 3100 or textphone 0800 151 3200) where you can get information, check your symptoms and get a unique number that will give you access to antivirals if necessary.

When you are given your unique access number, you will be told where your nearest antiviral collection point is. Ask a flu friend (a healthy friend or relative) to go and pick up the antiviral medication.

If you think you have swine flu, do not go to your GP surgery or A&E. Stay at home to avoid spreading the virus. Unquote

Had we been able to see a doctor in the normal manner none of this saga would have happened.

In addition, after completing the questionnaire my grandson was diagnosed with Swine flu and a number allocated to collect the Tamiflu. BUT HE DID NOT HAVE SWINE FLU and would have taken medication that would not have been appropriate and may in fact have caused further problems; not least making him feel very ill.

If you look on the internet you will find hundreds of cases where people, usually the most vulnerable, have been wrongly diagnosed with Swine Flu. Another aspect of this is that the statistics are also wrong.

The whole system needs rethinking.


I have posted this simply to give others my experience and to warn you of the pitfalls. The Receptionist overstepped the mark but was it on someone else’s instructions? Whatever, if you are worried about a member of your family having flu or, God Forbid, Meningitis, go straight to A & E is my advice.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like good advice JJ. Seems like a dreadful runaround and very scary for you all if it had been meningitis or swine flu. I'm glad it all worked out. Good on you for following through too. They need to hear more input like this. Hopefully someone will take notice eventually but unfortunately bureaucracy and red tape is like a concrete wall.


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