In the last few months, the UK Department of Health has launched a dangerous precedent that could potentially endanger the health and lives of millions of people.
To quell the surge of onsite visits to general practitioners
(GP) for flu, a network of hotlines integrated into
call centres was launched in late July. Medically
untrained call handlers at the centres guide patients
through a checklist of questions in an effort to diagnose
their condition. Those confirmed as having flu are
given a reference number, which they can use to claim
ineffective and essentially dangerous antiviral drugs
such as Tamiflu.
Numerous reports and studies have already linked Tamiflu to dozens of deaths worldwide in apparently very health children.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson admitted that less than 10 per cent of those who have been prescribed Tamiflu actually have swine flu. Figures show that staff on the hotline authorized tens of thousands of antivirals on any given week.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency alerted GPs that Tamiflu can put some people at greater risk of suffering a stroke, a condition far worse than any flu symptom.
Researchers at Oxford University have also warned that children with mild symptoms should not be given the drug because of side effects.
The WHO stated on their website that Tamiflu (also called oseltamivir) and another antiviral Relenza (also called zanamivir) should not be given to healthy people.
TV presenter Andrew Castle has publicly criticised Tamiflu after revealing that his daughter Georgina nearly died after taking it.
Mr Castle said the 16-year-old suffered an asthma attack and was hospitalised after being given a double dose of the antiviral in May, when there was a swine flu outbreak at her school, Alleyn's in Dulwich. Tests later revealed that she did not have the virus.
Nine in ten family doctors fear that diagnosing swine flu over the phone means other diseases could be missed, a survey has found.
They warned that cases of tonsillitis, bronchitis and even meningitis and pneumonia could go untreated, according to the poll in GP magazine.
One victim said he had had to deal with a case of
measles - a potentially fatal infection - which had
originally been diagnosed as swine flu.
Karen Sarkozi, from Bristol, said: "They are saying everything is swine flu and serious illnesses are being overlooked. If a parent thinks more is wrong with their child, they should push for a doctor to see them." Her son Callum Meaker, 13, had a kidney infection and became severely ill after he was misdiagnosed with swine flu over the phone.
In early August, a two-year-old girl named Georgia died from meningitis after call centre handlers told her parents she was suffering from swine flu. Paul Sewell, 21, and Tasha Keeling, 22, said that on two occasions they were told Georgia did not need to be admitted to hospital. A paramedic eventually arrived with Tamiflu and paracetamol. Georgia subsequently suffered a heart attack and attempts to resuscitate her failed.
In the survey of 251 GPs, 87 per cent answered yes when asked: "Does diagnosing swine flu over the phone mean other diseases may be missed?"
One GP said he had seen two patients with severe
tonsillitis and one with a knee infection who were
prescribed Tamiflu over the phone.
Another stated that "the symptoms are so vague and wide ranging, swine flu can masquerade as a vast array of other diseases."
In the following excerpt, Karl Hartey from Oswestry,
Shropshire, decribes how his teenage daughter Charlotte
Hartey, was prescribed Tamiflu after she was misdiagnosed
with swine flu in a telephone consultation.
Can you image what it is like to lose a child, a brother, a sister, a nephew or niece, a cousin, a granddaughter or grandson?
We hope it may never happen to us. We may think from time to time that it may happen, due to a road traffic accident or a terminal illness, but none of us think we will lose a child because they were incorrectly diagnosed and medicated over the telephone, with no examination, no tests and no form of physical contact from a professional.
In the United Kingdom, due to the concerns over the Swine Flu epidemic, the British Government have stopped doctors from seeing patients. We are all well aware that if we visit a medical practice there are big signs on the doors stopping you from entering if you suspect you may have Swine Flu. The advice you receive if feeling ill is to stay at home and ring a telephone number and describe how you feel. You have to rely on the diagnosis of a voice at the end of the telephone.
How can someone at the end of a telephone, diagnose
what is wrong with you without doing basic doctoring?
Doctors have studied for years the anatomy of the human body, contraindications, symptoms and the effects of medication on the human body. Due to the huge array of side affects, allergies and the sheer potency of today's medicines, it is imperative that the correct medication is prescribed and correctly administered to ensure the desired effect.
The only way this can be done is by accurately determining someone's condition by assessing the major areas of the body such as their throat, abdomen, chest, eyes, blood pressure and asking if they have any aches, pains or discomforts.
This basic doctoring has been stopped, people are now being diagnosed over the telephone and even worse still by a call centre where people have no medical training, just a list of questions on a computer system. The result of this is that children are being misdiagnosed, incorrect drugs are being administered and their lives are being lost due to the fear of a suspected October Swine Flu pandemic.
In my case our 16-year old daughter Charlotte who had a huge future ahead of her, was misdiagnosed on 22nd July 2009 with Swine Flu. On 29th July she was correctly diagnosed in the hospital with Tonsillitis.
Unfortunately this was 7 days too late, as on the 31st July 2009 Charlotte passed away from Bilateral Bronchial Pneumonia and multiple abscesses on her lungs. These were created by bacterial growth of the Tonsillitis that had not been treated because the doctors had assumed the telephone diagnosis of Swine Flu was correct and chose not to fully examine her.
This is not an isolated story. Since Charlotte passed away other families have experienced the same telephone diagnosis of Swine Flu when really they had Tonsillitis, Meningitis and Appendicitis have contacted us. Some children have been saved, as Charlotte's story had reached their parents in time for them to take action and seek additional medical advice, some have not. In the UK, there is up to a dozen cases since 21st July that have resulted in people being misdiagnosed and losing their lives.
The dangers of telephone diagnosis are all too apparent; our children are paying with their lives. In Charlotte's case she never had a second chance, she never had the chance to take her A-levels, to learn to drive, to get married, to have children and to have a wonderful future. Her life was cut short because of doctors diagnosing over the telephone due to governmental pressures.
A petition has been started demanding the banning of telephone diagnosis in an attempt to prevent the loss of more lives. I will then be delivering the petition personally to Number 10 Downing Street. The petition has already exceeded our original aim of 10,000 signatures.
To find out more or to download a petition form please visit www.charlottehartey.com
Charlotte's Petition Against
Call Centre Health Care
Written by Karl Hartey, Father of Charlotte Hartey, Managing Director of Applewood Wealth Management, International Speaker and member of MDRT.
September 10, 2009