Swine flu hotline staff are poorly trained and are risking lives by misdiagnosing serious illnesses as flu, doctors have warned.
A survey has revealed that 37% of GPs have had to deal with patients who were misdiagnosed by call centre staff and told they had swine flu when they were really suffering from life-threatening illnesses, including meningitis and pneumonia.
Three of the doctors surveyed by Pulse magazine said their patients had died because of the confusion.
One doctor in Derbyshire said a three-year-old had been diagnosed with swine flu and was given Tamiflu by the hotline – but was later diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia and admitted to hospital.
The GP said: “It was unlikely she ever had swine flu. It’s near-impossible to diagnose a febrile illness over the phone, and I am afraid one could miss meningitis or other serious illnesses by presuming it is swine flu.”
The survey of 205 GP surgeries also revealed that 91% of respondents called on the government to review its policy of offering Tamiflu to all patients with swine flu symptoms.
Personnel Today previously reported that some employers are preparing for absence rates of up to 27% at the peak of a second wave of swine flu.