170 miles - for my swine flu drugs?

PUBLISHED: 12:57 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:05 11 May 2010

A PENSIONER has labelled the swine flu hotline a joke after she was told to drive 170 miles to collect drugs. Maureen Gisby, 65, was repeatedly told she would have to collect the Tamiflu medicine from Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire when she called the nat

A PENSIONER has labelled the swine flu hotline a "joke" after she was told to drive 170 miles to collect drugs.

Maureen Gisby, 65, was repeatedly told she would have to collect the Tamiflu medicine from Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire when she called the national pandemic flu hotline last weekend after developing symptoms of the disease.

She said: "It's a joke really. I spelled out Royston, Hertfordshire, and gave them the postcode, yet I was still being told to go to Ross-on-Wye. They must have thought I was in Herefordshire.

"The people manning the hotline don't seem to have had much training. When I told them I had backache, which is a normal symptom of flu, they said I would need an ambulance.

"And then when I described more of my symptoms they said I could be having an epileptic fit.

"A lot of vulnerable people who are in awe of medical professionals will be calling that helpline, and I imagine they would be very worried if they heard that, it's quite scary really."

Eventually staff of the hotline directed Mrs Gisby's husband, Peter, to one of the Hertfordshire drug pick up centres in Welwyn Garden City, and the retired headteacher is now recovering at home.

Mrs Gisby added: "To be honest Welwyn Garden City is not much better than Ross-on-Wye, but the only other choice was Watford which is right on the other side of the county.

"You'd think there would be somewhere a bit nearer."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "As with any new service, we are aware that some people are experiencing problems and we are working to resolve them.

"A wide range of people are being recruited from all round the country and all are required to be able to speak English.

"They are being comprehensively trained on all aspects of the diagnostic tool and where to refer people to if needed."

Today (Thursday) a third anti-viral collection point (ACP) in the county opened at Castle Hall, Hertford.

Dr Jane Halpin, director of public health at NHS Hertfordshire, said the third location was opened following an "assessment of the situation" over the weekend.

She said: "The location of our first two ACPs in Welwyn Garden City and Watford has been based on our analysis of where the demand is and how we can make the best use of NHS resources.

"As the number of Hertfordshire residents with swine flu symptoms increases over the coming weeks and months, we will monitor demand and open other ACPs around the county or change their opening hours as needed.

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