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The main strategy for practice preparedness is to develop a pandemic plan for the practice that identifies key risks and key tasks, and clarifies key roles and responsibilities. The plan explains how the practice intends to operate before and during a pandemic.
Plans considered the most useful offer a framework rather than overly specified and complex responses. Planning should be based not only on worst-case scenarios, but be flexible and adaptable to accommodate pandemics of varying impact.22
So that general practices can operate effectively, both during and after a pandemic, a well-thought-out pandemic plan is essential. A comprehensive and useful pandemic plan needs to:
- clearly identify the pandemic leader and pandemic coordinator and outline the responsibilities for these roles and other practice staff (these two roles may be undertaken by the same person)
- list essential pandemic resources including key stakeholders, such as hospitals and diagnostic services
- describe effective communication strategies to utilise existing health networks and available infrastructure
- document infection control policies and identify triage algorithms for the management of suspected and known cases
- identify contingency arrangements for business continuity, including planning for absenteeism and use of alternative work processes (eg. work from home, e-consulting, hospital in the home, flu clinics and re-arrangement of workflow)
- identify contingency arrangements for patients with particular needs (eg. vulnerable groups, patients with comorbidities)
- outline the support the practice will provide for people in home isolation and/or quarantine.
Once the plan has been developed, it is crucial that staff are aware of the plan and receive appropriate education and training.