accessibility & help

British Red Cross steps up swine flu response as hotline goes live

19 August 2009

Two Red Cross ambulance crew members swiftly exit an ambulanceManchester Evening NewsAs the government launches its National Pandemic Service, the British Red Cross is stepping up its support for local health and emergency services to make sure the most vulnerable receive the help they need.

Vanessa Spiller, head of emergency response, said: “We have been working with authorities from the outset in planning for and responding to the swine flu outbreak. As cases continue to rise, the Red Cross is rolling out plans to support health services across the UK.”

She added: “The National Pandemic Service will be a very useful tool to help ensure those who have symptoms get the right treatment.”

‘Flu friends’

In some parts of the country, the Red Cross – alongside other voluntary organisations – is already providing useful services. These include transporting non-emergency patients to relieve pressure on the ambulance service, and acting as ‘flu friends’ to the most vulnerable by delivering and distributing anti-viral medicine.

Swine fluLayton Thompson (BRC)Vanessa explained: “At the moment, people diagnosed with swine flu over the phone are being asked to get a ‘flu friend’ – friends or family – to collect their anti-virals for them. In the vast majority of cases this is not a problem but, unfortunately, there are some who really have nobody else to help them.

 “We would always encourage people to look out for their neighbours, friends and family, and that is especially true at the moment. Almost anyone can be a flu friend and help those with the virus access the medicine and support they need.

Helping the vulnerable

She added: “We would recommend that people ask their families, friends, work colleagues or neighbours to be their flu friends before they become ill and keep their contact details handy.

“Red Cross volunteers can be requested by local health authorities to act as flu friends to the most vulnerable, helping ensure those unable to call on friends or family receive the help they need.”

If people need a flu friend, they should contact their local health authority, not the British Red Cross directly. If the British Red Cross has an existing partnership agreement with that authority, they may then be referred to us.  

Find out what to do if you think you have swine flu

Visit the Department of Health’s website

Learn how to be prepared for swine flu

Get some top hygiene tips from our Red Cross blog

Learn about first aid

Read our resources for schools

The British Red Cross is prepared to make a donation from the Disaster Fund in response to this serious threat if there is a large-scale outbreak of swine flu and extra resources are needed.