Modelling the impact of an influenza A/H1N1 pandemic on critical care demand from early pathogenicity data: the case for sentinel reporting


Correspondence to: Dr Ari Ercole


Projected critical care demand for pandemic influenza H1N1 in England was estimated in this study. The effect of varying hospital admission rates under statistical uncertainty was examined. Early in a pandemic, uncertainty in epidemiological parameters leads to a wide range of credible scenarios, with projected demand ranging from insignificant to overwhelming. However, even small changes to input assumptions make the major incident scenario increasingly likely. Before any cases are admitted to hospital, 95% confidence limit on admission rates led to a range in predicted peak critical care bed occupancy of between 0% and 37% of total critical care bed capacity, half of these cases requiring ventilatory support. For hospital admission rates above 0.25%, critical care bed availability would be exceeded. Further, only 10% of critical care beds in England are in specialist paediatric units, but best estimates suggest that 30% of patients requiring critical care will be children. Paediatric intensive care facilities are likely to be quickly exhausted and suggest that older children should be managed in adult critical care units to allow resource optimisation. Crucially this study highlights the need for sentinel reporting and real-time modelling to guide rational decision making.