TV star Andi Peters drafted in to fight swine flu
Children’s TV presenter Andi Peters and weather experts have been drafted in to help with the fight against swine flu and ease bedblocking in Birmingham this winter.
Health bosses have outlined plans to deal with pressures on hospitals, which include creating extra beds and calling on meteorologists to provide early warnings if severe weather is on the way.
Masterchef and Dancing on Ice star Andi Peters will be drafted in to warn children about swine flu risks.
Birmingham public health director Jim McManus said expectations were that less people would die from the H1N1 virus but a higher number of people would be hospitalised, meaning more pressure on wards.
Bedblocking, also called delayed transfer of care, caused havoc in city hospitals last winter when vomiting bug norovirus struck at the same time as flu.
It meant wards were full or closed off to stop norovirus spreading, routine operations were cancelled and the social services transport fleet used as a back-up to move patients when the ambulance service was too busy.
But social care, NHS and ambulance teams said they would be adding 51 more beds to units across the city in an attempt to combat this problem.
St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross are also prepared to help with moving patients around.
“Last year’s events were unfortunate but they have helped us put in place better plans for this year,” said Mr McManus.
“This year we have the addition of swine flu and a group will meet daily if necessary to identify where the pressures are. We are looking at having 51 more community beds to ease problems of delayed transfer of care, which affects the system.
“The next wave of swine flu will affect more people but we are expecting a smaller number of deaths but greater number who need hospitalisation.”
Staff from all children’s and care homes are also being trained to cope with swine flu.
Dr Chris Spencer Jones, public health director for south Birmingham, said primary care trusts were looking at how to keep people out of hospital over the winter to make sure bed capacity was not too high, including giving patients with chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes additional help at home so they would not need to be admitted.
“Bed occupancy in Birmingham can exceed 100 per cent, which means one bed is being used by more than one patient in one day and that can create problems when people need to go into hospital,” said Dr Spencer Jones.
“We are trying to get that lower, along with working with the Met Office on weather reports and reducing excess admissions.
“We have the ability to double capacity in Birmingham but that means elective operations would stop and the Government’s 18-week targets might not be met.
“How the public behaves is so important in these situations. If everyone in the at-risk groups takes up the offer of a vaccine it would take out the biggest component of winter pressures.”
Department of Health officers have told primary care trusts that the severity of swine flu should be half of previous expectations.
Dr Spencer Jones said a vaccination to protect against the H1N1 virus, expected in the coming month, will be given over the course of two jabs. The seasonal flu vaccine will be given separately.
Patients are being advised not to go to A&E if they believe they have swine flu but to contact the national flu hotline or their GP.
n Numbers of people attending GPs with flu-like symptoms have remained stable over the past week and are below the national average, with no further deaths connected to swine flu. The number of people with swine flu admitted to hospital this week was 40 compared with 41 last week.