Address crisis staff issue or face scandal, NHS told

A flu pandemic would cripple the NHS because the Government has no
contingency staffing plans, a leading doctor has warned.

"I think there will be a crisis which could become one of these seminal
events. There will be a lot of people who will not get on ventilators and there
would be a massive scandal," said Dr Michael Goodman, deputy chairman of
the British Medical Association consultants’ committee.

The comments reflect a belief in the health service that a major staffing
crisis was only narrowly averted during the recent flu outbreak, which did not
even reach epidemic levels.

Goodman, also a hospital consultant, characterised the current system as
"a hope-for-the-best, Dunkirk spirit approach".

HR directors believe the DoH policy of leaving responsibility for
contingency plans with individual trusts is inadequate.

James Farrelly, personnel manager at West Lothian Healthcare NHS Trust, said
existing recruitment problems made it impossible for hospitals to plan for a

"Any type of situation like this would have to be managed on a
firefighting basis," he said. "It is a situation that has to be
managed as it happens."

Goodman said the Government’s plan contained just four paragraphs about
hospital care, two of them relating to securing drugs and gaining mortuary

One strategy, he said, could be to establish a reserve of retired medical
staff although this would require a system to allow them to update their

A DoH spokeswoman said the Government had launched the "largest
ever" flu immunisation programme last October.

By Helen Rowe

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