17/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 03:58

London Olympics: Disease-check legacy of Games

Category: England

Published: 9th May 2012 17:05:28

Imagine an entire season of Premier League football matches running in the same venue within several weeks.

That is how one health official is summing up the scale and the challenge of preparing for the 2012 Olympics.

There will be health legacies from the Olympics: the Health Protection Agency (HPA) says the Games will leave the UK with one of the world's best disease surveillance systems.

And a special polyclinic - looking after athletes and spectators on the main site - will stay open afterwards.

But transport congestion during the Games is the main factor that could cause problems for the NHS - not just for staff, but also for patients and supplies trying to reach hospitals.

NHS leaders in London are trying to make sure the health service can perform its "business as usual" without becoming too stretched during the Games.

They hope the NHS will stay below the radar, in terms of not attracting negative headlines.

The party atmosphere, starting with the Jubilee weekend and ending with the Paralympics, means the workload in hospitals will feel more like winter levels than summer ones.

We're advising patients to order their regular medicine in time - don't leave it to the last minute”

Staffing decisions are down to individual managers - but the NHS will still be expected to do its normal work and hit targets.

Figures from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver showed a big spike in drunk people turning up at hospital.

Planners at NHS London are expecting some days with similar pressures to New Year's Eve.

They are also predicting there might be higher levels of respiratory illnesses - either from infections being passed around or from conditions such as asthma.

The hope is that pharmacists will deal with minor illnesses, or point patients in the direction of walk-in centres, to take the pressure off busy accident and emergency departments.

The east London pharmacy run by Farhad Hodabaksh is a hive of activity, even on an ordinary weekday morning.

As many as half a million foreign visitors are expected in the area during the Games.

Farhad is ordering extra supplies to cope with customers who have insect bites or sunburn, and those needing emergency contraception.

And he's re-arranging medicine deliveries, in anticipation that his part of Newham, east London, will become clogged with traffic.

He said: "We deal with GP surgeries in Stratford, near the main events. So we're advising patients to order their regular medication in time - don't leave it to the last minute.

"And we're looking at getting our driver to deliver medicine later in the day, probably in the evening. Luckily our driver is quite flexible."

Steve Fishwick, from the National Pharmacy Association, said: "Pharmacists in this part of the world will come into their own during the Olympics, and are likely to be the first port of call for many people."

Planning began when the Olympic bid was launched eight years ago for Dr Brian McCloskey, who is co-ordinating the HPA's preparations.

At a special co-ordinating centre, his team are rehearsing what will become a daily situation report for key parts of government, on infectious diseases circulating in the UK during the Games.

Although the Olympics hub is London - and the city is at higher risk because of its connections to other parts of the world - visitors will also be at events in Dorset, Newcastle and Manchester.

Dr McCloskey told me: "The worst scenario we're planning for is a pandemic involving flu or a Sars-type outbreak. But we live with that possibility all the time - not just with the Games.

"The likely thing is that we will see outbreaks of food poisoning involving diarrhoea and vomiting - because that happens every summer.

"We're anxious about that because there will be a lot of extra food outlets around the Olympic Park.

"We will need to make sure we can get on top of those outbreaks quickly so they don't spread."

Good hand hygiene will therefore be important - but the HPA says reports of competitors being discouraged from shaking hands are simply scare stories.

There'll be free water points in the Olympic Park to stop people getting dehydrated.

Systems for picking up patterns of unusual symptoms have been expanded to include a wider range of NHS sources, including out-of-hours and hospital emergency departments.

Dr McCloskey said: "The UK will probably have the best surveillance systems in the world after these Games.

"We've also brought in a new test for gastro-enteritis, which can tell us within hours rather than days what the organism is causing it.

"And our testing has become more advanced for respiratory viruses. It means we can test for a whole range at one time - and quickly pick out something that is unusual and scary."

The officials behind the planning effort are comforted by the fact that the health service has previously coped well with unexpected events, such as swine flu and riots.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. London Olympics: Disease-check legacy of Games [Online] (Updated 9th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1427505/London-Olympics-Disease-check-legacy-of-Games [Accessed 17th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Ukraine crisis: Crunch talks due in Geneva

    Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine are due to meet in Geneva to try to reduce escalating tensions over eastern Ukraine.
  • Ruined Plas Gwynfryn mansion, Gwynedd, hit by fire

    The remains of 19th Century country house that was gutted by a blaze more than 30 years ago has been hit by fire again.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Jockey Club sees profit jump 11% to record level

    The Jockey Club, which runs 15 UK racecourses, reported record profits for last year of £22m.
  • The return of rock: Four bands to watch

    After years in the doldrums, the UK rock scene is finally showing signs of life. We speak to four of the country's most promising new bands.
  • The return of rock: Four bands to watch

    After years in the doldrums, the UK rock scene is finally showing signs of life. We speak to four of the country's most promising new bands.