More than one in three people have failed to collect their anti-viral medicine after being issued with an authorisation number by the National Pandemic Flu Service, according to latest statistics.

Figures published by the Department of Health for the first two weeks of the NPFS show that out of 511,282 people who completed assessment on the web or via call centres and were given a reference number to collect anti-viral medicines so far only 315,793 have done so.

Patients using the NPFS are advised that use of antiviral treatment will help recovery if taken within seven days of the symptoms developing by relieving some of the symptoms and reducing the length of illness by around one day as well as the potential for serious complications.

They are instructed to send a “flu friend” to collect their medicine from an antiviral collection point but so far only 62% have done so.

The NPFS was launched on July 23 with the aim of relieving pressure on GP services and the DH reported that GP consultations had fallen by the end of last week to 42 appointments per100,000 from 155 appointments per 100,000 people.

The estimated number of new cases of swine flu fell from just over 30,000 compared to 110,000 the week before suggesting that the first peak of the pandemic flu epidemic is over.

The Royal College of GPs said that it had received a number of concerns from GPs which focused on the inappropriate authorisation of Tamiflu and the potential for misdiagnosis by the flu line. A survey by GP newspaper last week also found GPs were concerned about misdiagnosis.

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP secretary, told members that the college was working closely with the Department of Health and NHS Direct to ensure that the highest standards of patient safety were maintained, and that the RCGP had set up an expert GP liaison service with the call centres to achieve that aim.

The DH said legal liability for any errors or missed diagnoses made by the telephone and web-based service would rest with NPFS and DH and GPs would not be legally responsible.

Ian Dalton, England’s director of flu resilience, told GP newspaper last week that plans to suspend the Quality and Outcomes Framework as a result of swine flu remained “hypothetical” at the moment.

He said the DH would keep the issue under review but in an ideal world would like to see the QoF continue.