Managing pandemic influenza in general practice

Part C - Response

Business continuity

Last revised: 16 Dec 2019

Workloads may change dramatically during a pandemic. At the start of and throughout the pandemic, practices may need to revise what work will be done in the practice and what work will be re-organised, delayed, shared or referred. Key tasks for all staff should be prioritised and any additional workforce capacity available should be identified.11

Home visit demands could increase due to patients in quarantine and patients with chronic illness. Practices will need to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to meet demands while protecting staff and patients. Where travel restrictions or fuel shortages are an issue, consider the use of alternative techniques such as telehealth consultations.

Where possible, practices may consider sharing the workload with other local practices. One practice could manage patients with fever and those with an influenza-like illness, and another clinic could manage patients with a non-infectious illness.45 Where they operate, flu clinics may help reduce numbers of emergency department visits,49 although they may have limited impact on general practice workload.

Practice staff may need to review and update their human resource management plan when new information about the pandemic becomes available. This may be due to changes in the level of severity of the pandemic, increased demand for services, and practice circumstances. Practices should assign a dedicated staff member to oversee work rosters and manage risks to staff health and wellbeing.

Medical staff may have a higher infection rate than the general population. Infection of staff may lead to further infections of their family members. In a ‘mild’ pandemic there may be little absenteeism. However, when faced with a ‘severe’ pandemic, staff may decide to retract their offer to work during a pandemic.

If a surge is expected and additional staff are required (including volunteers), contact your indemnity insurer for temporary coverage of GPs and staff members.

If the response to the pandemic requires staff to work more hours than usual, exhaustion and burnout may occur. Practice managers may consider shorter, more frequent shifts or increasing days off in between shifts.

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