When Fred Perks – an 87-year-old widower – started to display symptoms of swine flu earlier this summer, he called the NHS phone line for advice after seeing a TV advert.
Fred recalled: “I felt out of breath and couldn’t stop coughing or sneezing, so I called the NHS number.” The phone representative explained it was indeed likely that Fred had swine flu and advised him to contact his nearest health centre in Grantham.
The pensioner, whose long-term partner Hilda died two years ago, now lives alone, and his son and daughter both stay hundreds of miles away. He explained: “I couldn’t get out of the house to get the medication and don’t have any family around me. I had no one else to help me, so a person from the Red Cross came and delivered it to my house.”
Flu friend support
Across the UK, Red Cross volunteers are acting as 'flu friends' by delivering medication to those who have been diagnosed with swine flu symptoms – but don't have family or friends on hand to help.
Fred’s local flu friend team delivered his anti-viral medicine whenever necessary throughout the summer. They have also been contacting the pensioner regularly since his diagnosis in late July, to check on how he is feeling and to offer support.
Fred added: “It’s a tough world today and people in the community don’t look out for each other like they used to. I think it’s marvellous that Red Cross volunteers take the time to come out and help people like me. It has been like having a friend at the end of the phone.”
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
Be a flu friend