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West Midlands considers swine flu contingency plans

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NHS West Midlands has revealed that it is considering using contingency plans in the event of a large number of staff being absent from work with swine flu.

There have been more than 1,100 confirmed swine flu cases in the region, accounting for more than half of all the confirmed cases in England.

Cover can be provided if up to 30% of staff are ill, said Dr Helen Carter, consultant in public health medicine at the strategic health authority.

The plans involve staff being redeployed to cover for others who have become sick with swine flu.

She said: ‘The NHS has been planning for a flu pandemic for years and is well prepared in its response. We have plans to ensure that health services can be delivered at a time when there is likely to be staff absenteeism due to illness.

‘These plans will ensure that local health services can deliver a quality service to the public with reduced levels of staffing.

‘These plans looks at a possible absenteeism between 15 - 30% of NHS staff due to the illness - but it’s important to note that this would happen at different times and in different health services/facilities, not across the whole NHS.

‘These plans could include different shift patterns, calling on mutual aid from other health services, using recently retired staff, redeploying staff in different areas, and cancelling non-urgent work. We are not at this stage at the moment, our experience of the illness so far is that it is a mild form of flu.’

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