Swine flu: NHS Direct bans helpline staff from taking holiday

NHS Direct has banned helpline staff from taking annual leave to deal with the influx of calls about swine flu.

The free advice service told Personnel Today that pre-booked annual leave had not been cancelled, but staff had been told to refrain from booking further holiday while the organisation gauges how many support staff it will need.

On Sunday, 88 people called NHS Direct in England about swine flu. By Monday that figure had topped 1,300. The latest figures out tonight are expected to confirm calls to the helpline have increased further.

An NHS Direct spokeswoman said: “No annual leave has been cancelled, but staff have been asked not to book any new leave for the foreseeable future, until we work out how many staff we might need on the helpline.”

Earlier today legal experts warned employers imposing travel bans or quarantines on infected staff faced breaching privacy and employment law if they failed to consult properly with employees’ representatives globally.

Just two cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the UK. In Scotland a further 23 cases are being investigated.

In Mexico the swine flu death toll has reached 159.

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