Over three quarters of UK businesses lack contingency plans for bird or pandemic flu pandemic
New research has shown that 80% of UK businesses do not have specific contingency plans to deal with the threat of bird or pandemic flu. Business continuity could be impacted severely by either. The research, carried out on behalf of The Bell Pottinger Group tells a startling story with approximately four in every five SMEs admitting they are unprepared for the impact of a pandemic.
“Today’s news that avian flu has been found in Scotland is a serious reminder that the threat is real. While the likelihood of avian flu being a real risk to human health - it is also a serious risk to business continuity. Meanwhile many commentators regard a human flu pandemic as inevitable - saying it’s not a question of if but when1. Imagine at least twice the demand and half the resource,” said Vicki Baxter, a director of Bell Pottinger North and a member of The Bell Pottinger Group’s 24hr issues and crisis management service.
At this stage no one knows what proportion of the UK workforce will be affected but estimates range from 20-60%. The implications are serious, yet the research shows it is a threat which has to date been largely ignored. When asked if contingency plans existed:
· Overall 80% of businesses researched said they had no specific contingency plans for bird or pandemic flu
· 87% of manufacturing companies and 79% of those in distribution did not have plans. e.g. food manufacturing and its distribution (up to 90% of the UK’s food supplies are in transit at any one time)
1. Speaking to the BBC in October 2005, Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said: “We can’t make this pandemic go away because it is a natural phenomenon, it will come”.
· Businesses in the Midlands emerged with the worst state of readiness with 94% having no continuity plan in place
· In the North 86% of businesses had no contingency plan
Predictions on the extent of the impact of a pandemic vary. At best the infection rate could be 10%, at worst 50%. Deaths are predicted at anything from 21,000 to 700,000 plus - some say 2 million in the UK alone with up to 12 million worldwide. The World Bank estimates the total cost of a global outbreak to be in excess of $800 billion whilst the WHO has said that a bird flu pandemic is a question of when not if, and that governments and business should work in cooperation to prepare.
The urgent need for businesses to plan for significant losses to the nation’s workforce was reinforced by Kevin Murray, Chairman of The Bell Pottinger Group. “The board should not assume that they won’t be affected. Businesses need to recognise the risk now and be ready to respond in twice the speed with half the people,” he stressed. “Throwing money at the problem will not solve it, businesses need to understand that their support services will be in the same position and that is what makes this situation unique.”
At a recent conference hosted by The Bell Pottinger Group, Dr David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation, Department of Health and Chairman of Strategic Advisory Group commented on the situation at the time: “We have a contingency plan which we review constantly. We have all the key components in place, including teams ready to produce a vaccine to match the pandemic strain of virus if and when it emerges. We don’t know what will happen, so we must prepare for the worst case scenario. Antivirals won’t stop the pandemic but they will give us more preparation time.”
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For more information call: Vicki Baxter
On: 01625 617611
Note to editors
201 interviews with Managing Directors, Financial Directors and other senior managers of businesses (PLC’s and Private companies) with an annual turnover of over £1m. Quotas were applied by turnover, region and industry type.
Dunn & Bradstreet
All interviews were carried out from Continental Research’s 100 line telephone unit in central London. The agency is IQCS approved, its interviewing procedures meeting MRS industry approved standards. To further ensure quality standards were met all interviewers were fully supervised throughout the field period and a proportion of their interviewers independently monitored.
Weighting was applied by turnover, region and industry type to make the sample representative of the 147,000 companies with a turnover of over £1m as estimated by the DTI.
20th - 24th March 2006
Continental Research asked 201 businesses:
Does your organisation have specific contingency plans in place regarding the threat to continuity of your business presented by bird or pandemic flu?
£1m-5m - 80% said NO
£5m-20m - 89% said NO
£20m+ - 62% said NO
Manufacturing - 87% said NO
Distribution - 79% said NO
Service - 76% said NO
North - 86% said NO
Midlands - 94% said NO
South - 70% said NO
Further details on research results call:
On: 020 7861 3869
The Bell Pottinger Group
The Bell Pottinger Group is made up of more than 20 specialist communications companies. Bell Pottinger has a specialist ‘Issues and Crisis Management’ team which helps countries, corporates and individuals to prepare, build, manage, protect and recover their reputations. The service is led by Claire Cater, a Director of The Bell Pottinger Group.
Leading health and medical experts recently met with representatives from UK businesses and governmental agencies to provide a realistic assessment of the potential impact of an outbreak of bird flu and advise attendees on how to plan for significant losses to the nation’s workforce. Organised by The Bell Pottinger Group, the conference was presented in the light of recent news from pharmaceutical companies that their capacity for manufacturing flu vaccine will be substantially short of global demand if a pandemic strikes.
Expert speakers and panel members included:
· Dr David Salisbury - Director of Immunisation, Department of Health and Chairman of Strategic Advisory Group
· Jo Revill - author of ‘Everything you need to know about Bird Flu’
· Yasmin Diamond - Director of Communications at DEFRA
· Andre Farrar - Head of Conservation and Policy PR at RSPB