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Camden News - by TOM FOOT
Published: 16 July 2009
Health centres struggle to cope with swine flu

204 cases are confirmed in the borough

SWINE flu has overwhelmed one of Camden’s leading health centres, infecting staff and doctors and forcing the cancellation of non-emergency appointments for patients with chronic illness.
Four of the medical team at James Wigg Practice in Kentish Town Health Centre (KTHC) are off sick after being diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.
Doctors at the centre in Bartholomew Road said they are fielding up to 70 calls on swine flu a day.
Practice partner Dr Roy MacGregor said: “We are getting around 60 to 70 calls a day from patients about swine flu – around 30 to 40 of those are suspected cases.
“We are basing that on temperature and whether people are showing the symptoms of swine flu. They are being offered Tamiflu. Thankfully, it is generally a mild virus, but what is surprising is that there has been no let-up. It is affecting younger people – we are talking about the five to 25-year-olds.”
He said a quarter of the 50 staff at KTHC were expected to be hit by the virus over the summer.
All chronic disease appointments and the centre’s pioneering alternative services – including alcohol and drug counselling, psychiatry, benefit and debt advice – have been cancelled while doctors and staff answer the phones.
Space normally reserved for treating hospital outpatients has been designated as “quarantine” zones for infected patients.
Dr MacGregor said: “We are texting patients, using screens in waiting rooms for advice and training as many people as possible to give advice. We are stretched, but not to breaking point.”
Camidoc, the out-of-hours co-operative of local doctors, has had to employ dozens more staff to help with the deluge of calls. And in the south of the borough, medical staff at the Museum Practice reported five calls on swine flu in the first hour of opening yesterday (Wednesday) morning.
In Keats Group Practice, Hampstead, manager Debbie Sadler said: “We are experiencing a steady stream, but I don’t think we’re any different to anyone else,” she added. “We’ve got things under control.”
The Health Protection Agency has advised doctors to diagnose swine flu over the phone.
To stop the spread of infection, “flu buddies” – non-infected friends of swine flu victims – are being asked to collect prescriptions of the Tamiflu anti-viral from one of three chemists.
An NHS Camden spokesman said there are now 204 confirmed cases of swine flu in the borough.
“We are working very closely with NHS London and the Health Protection Agency to make sure both patients and GPs get all the support they need,” the spokesman added.
“Those who think they have the virus and are pregnant, very young, over 65, or have long-term conditions such as asthma or diabetes should see their doctor.”

For more information, call 0800 1 513 513. Check symptoms at, or contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

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