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Pandemic influenza preparation 

The Department of Health and NHS Employers have published the final guidance on the key human resource issues that would arise in the event of an outbreak of pandemic flu.

The guidance has been revised and updated following feedback received from employers after the publication of the draft guidance.

Steve Barnett, NHS Employers director chaired the working group that developed the guidance on behalf of the Department of Health. The working group was made up of representatives of the Department of Health, Strategic Health Authorities, regulatory bodies, NHS and local government employers and trade union representatives.

The NHS is in the process of preparing for a possible outbreak of pandemic flu, the human resources guidance will need to be implemented and adapted at local level and should be read alongside the wider guidance on pandemic flu preparedness issued by the Department of Health.

Pandemic flu HR guidance

The pandemic flu HR guidance covers the range of issues which may emerge in the event of a pandemic:

  • it outlines the main features of the proposed response to the pandemic. Full details of how services will be restructured including the setting up of a 'pandemic flu line' to be coordinated by NHS Direct, arrangements in primary and community services and changes to hospital based services are dealt with in more detail in a range of other pandemic guidance which has been issued by the Department of Health.
  • how staff can be redeployed and how organisations can work together can sustain services to deal with the pandemic impact
  • how the NHS should deal with the likely impact of the pandemic on staffing levels for example by seeking to build up a reserve pool of potential staff to draw on to fill in gaps created by staff absence
  • how to manage staff absence and in particular dealing with staff that have caring responsibilities especially school age children
  • ensuring staff are used most effectively and reassuring staff around issues such as discipline
  • how to comply with the working time regulations
  • providing support to staff during and the pandemic
    the recovery phase.

A summary of the main recommendations of the HR guidance is available.

Ongoing work

  • NHS Employers has raised concerns over a number of workforce related aspects such as the operation of Criminal Record Bureau checks in the event of a pandemic and the potential impact on educational provision
  • Work is ongoing in the Department of Health on a range of matters including prescribing protocols and operation of the telephone based anti viral distribution system
  • Educational bodies are looking at the range of educational issues that would be created. Regulatory bodies are making appropriate changes to allow for speedier registration in the event of a pandemic
  • NHS Employers will continue to keep this issue under review and work with other stakeholders on issues of common interest
  • Detailed planning of local workforce responses is being dealt with by individual NHS Organisations. Each Strategic Health Authority has a pandemic influenza contact for their area who may be able to provide more information on local preparations.

Flu pandemic payments

In addition NHS Employers and the GPC have reached agreement on the maintenance of GMS practice resources in the event of an influenza pandemic.

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Steven Weeks
020 7074 3213

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