Nine out of 10 GPs believe that diagnosing swine flu over the phone will mean that other diseases may be missed, according to the results of a survey conducted in the last few days.

A total of 251 GPs responded to a poll by GP newspaper and 87% said diagnosing swine flu over the telephone would mean that other diseases might be missed while 10% were unsure and only 3% said other illnesses would not be missed.

Anonymous comments submitted included one from a GP who wrote: “Saw a case today of measles which was diagnosed over the phone as swine flu” and another who commented: “I have already seen two patients with severe tonsillitis and one with a knee infection given Tamiflu over the phone from the hotline.”

However the National Pandemic Flu Service was defended by Ian Dalton, England’s director of NHS flu resilience.

He told GP newspaper: “The algorithm has been designed in such a way that, as best as we can predict, people who have serious conditions, be that meningitis or MI, or anything else, will be taken to the point of need.”

The GP poll ran from Wednesday 29 July to Monday 3 August. It also found that 53% answered ‘yes’ when asked the question: ‘Has your flu workload dropped since the hotline was introduced?’ (35% answered ‘no’, 11% answered ‘unsure’).

Meanwhile GP practices in Camden have send out text messages advising patients what to do if they think they have swine flu.

The practices have used the iPlato Patient Care Messaging Service originally funded by the primary care trust for a range of other services, to encourage patients to ring the National Flu Pandemic Service first before contacting their practice.

Jeff Mitchell, IT manager of the James Wigg Practice in NHS Camden, said the practice used the text messaging service to reach its 8,500 patients and that this led to an immediate decrease in the volume of calls concerning swine flu.

It also led to an increase the hits on the practice website, which provides information for patients on swine flu.

He added: “We know people are very concerned about swine flu and we want them to know what to do if they think they are infected. Many of our patients have mobile phones and text is a great way to send out a message instantly.”