Dr Laurance Buckman: Reassurance is the key to keeping the public calm

Related Topics

Dealing with patients' concerns over swine flu is taking vast amounts of doctors' time away from patients that are actually ill. More of my time nowadays is spent reassuring and informing patients about swine flu than actually diagnosing them with it.

The coverage and response to swine flu has led to increased public anxiety, and it's a strain that most GPs across the country are feeling – some a lot greater than others.

While patients are clearly concerned, many of the queries we are receiving at the moment are coming from people who are not actually ill, and questions that don't necessarily warrant a GP's time. They include: where to buy Tamiflu in foreign countries while on holiday, whether children can contract the virus from friends, or the pros and cons of anti-viral drugs. Important questions no doubt, but not when they are interrupting other patients' time in surgery.

Concerned callers can ring multiple times a day often during surgery hours. Each query generates paperwork, while responding to phone calls outside of surgery time is adding hours to each side of my day. Then, of course, there are the people who are actually ill with swine flu. We planned to contain them in another part of the surgery, yet there is not sufficient space to always do that. My receptionist has now been trained in how to detect symptoms and knows how to intercept patients that might have contracted swine-flu so that they can be told not to come in. Instead I will talk to them directly and make a judgement whether to provide Tamiflu.

For the ones that do need it, I can often find myself engaged in conversations about Tamiflu. Many swine flu sufferers have read about the side-effects on the internet and you can frequently find yourself debating with patients who need it but don't want it (as well as those who want it but don't need it).

It's worth remembering that my surgery is not even located in a swine flu hotspot. So far I have diagnosed around 40 cases of swine flu (nearly as many as the whole of Northern Ireland), but the number of daily consultations has risen by around 10 per cent in recent months. There are much more serious hotspots across the country that are seeing daily consultation increases of as much as 500 per cent. And there is simply no facility on Earth that is geared up to deal with that rise in workload.

The telephone service will no doubt relieve the strain on GPs, yet the Government needs to readdress the balance in its messages. It needs to be more reassuring. After all it's worth remembering that the effects of swine flu are – so far – still not as severe as ordinary flu. We just don't see a daily monitored death rate that induces the same levels of fear.

Dr Buckman is chairman of the GP Committee, British Medical Association

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world