Aim To evaluate the efficacy of the UK swine flu algorithm as a screening tool in unwell children, and to compare the management advice given with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) feverish illness guideline advice.
Method All paediatric medical admissions to the unit, with a fever and over the age of 1 year, during 2 weeks in November were analysed, and their histories were put through both the swine flu algorithm and the NICE fever guidance for the under 5s.
Results Of 72 patients, 71 would have had a diagnosis of swine flu had their symptoms been put through the algorithm. Two patients had confirmed swine flu on testing, and 32 patients definitely did not have swine flu. The positive predictive value of the algorithm is between 2.8% and 56.3% in this population. 39% would have been advised to have a face-to-face consultation by the NICE guidance, but would not have been advised to have an urgent consultation by the swine flu guidance. At least 79% of patients had treatments only available in hospitals.
Conclusions The swine flu algorithm is of little use in differentiating unwell children, and advice given does not correlate well with that of the NICE guidance. There is a significant risk of harm with false-positive diagnoses and potential delays in appropriate treatment. The authors were unable to obtain the data and rationale behind the algorithm, and believe that this should be published. Face-to-face consultations may be the only way to ensure patient safety.
- Clinical assessment
- major incident/planning
- prehospital care
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.