Friday, 24 July 2009

National swine flu help service goes live

From The Guardian

Will the new freephone and website service buckle under the weight of growing panic about the pandemic? We check out its online advice and the public's reaction

3.03pm: The national swine flu help service finally goes live at 3pm today, with millions expected to call the telephone helpline - 0800 1513 100 - and website. Until half an hour ago the Department of Health press office said it was unable to state at what time the service would actually launch, amid reports of serious IT problems, which is unlikely to reassure the government's critics that it has the situation in hand.

3.04pm: Just minutes after the website is launched, it is apparently already overwhelmed with requests for information. Visitors clicking through to the section for patients in England get this message: "The service is currently very busy and cannot deal with your request at this time."

3.27pm: Nearly half an hour after its launch and there is still no access to the service. The website does prompt you for the following info: date of birth; current symptoms; medical history; NHS number or, if you are a foreign visitor, passport number or European Identity Card number; postcode. The Department of Health press release says if you are deemed to have swine flu symptoms you'll be given a unique access number and told where your nearest antiviral collection point is. Then you need to get your "flu friend" to go and pick up the drugs. They must show their own ID as well as yours.

3.29pm: The helpline offers callers two options - general information on swine flu, directing you to call 0800 1513513, and an assessment of your symptoms. There was only a short wait to get through to a member of staff.

3.44pm: Twitterers complain they can't access the website. djwhisky writes: "Pandemic Flu site overloaded already - would've thought they'd do some load testing b4 launch #fail."

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