IT COULD be another seven months before the swine flu epidemic reaches its peak, according to health trust chiefs.

A board meeting at the Bromley Primary Care Trust (PCT) last week also revealed doctors are now treating 200 people a day for the H1N1 virus.

Chief executive Simon Robbins said during Thursday’s (July 16) meeting at the Beckenham Beacon that the epidemic is likely to last well into the new year and warned there could be potential “second waves” of the virus.

He added staff at the trust would need to pace themselves to effectively tackle swine flu “at the height of the endemic when it arrives”.

“I think we are well placed at the moment in terms of resources,” he said.

“The volume of cases is getting to a point where we can’t just run faster and faster.

“We need to plan for the long haul.”

GPs working 'particularly hard'

Joint director of public health Doctor Angela Bhan said the numbers of antiviral drugs being issued had risen from 70 courses a day earlier this month to around 200 a day, resulting in extra work for the borough’s GPs.

She said: “They are having to work particularly hard.

"Services are beginning to feel the brunt of the endemic now.”

Mr Robbins warned by the time the board met again in September, the pressure the flu strain was placing on the PCT could be even greater.

He said: “I suspect we will be in a very different place and we need to be confident.”

The trust’s director of finance, Marie Farrell, added the organisation was already “incurring costs” as a result of swine flu and chairman Elizabeth Butler said it was important staff prioritised patients as the number of cases swelled over the coming months.

A Bromley PCT report states there are nearly 100,000 confirmed swine flu cases outside Mexico, spread across 120 countries.

There have been more than 400 recorded deaths.