Doctors and nurses will be replaced with buddies and a helpline in the event of an H5N1 avian flu pandemic, according to a plan to be proposed by the government this week.

The government hopes the national emergency care plan will reduce pressure on the NHS in the event of an avian flu outbreak.

If H5N1 mutates into a human strain and becomes pandemic in Britain, the government proposes that each person will register a relative or friend with the local primary care trust as a buddy. 

A helpline will then be set up for patients to call and check their symptoms match avian flu, before the buddy is contacted to pick up the medication on their behalf.

This will aid the speedy delivery of the antiviral medication, Tamiflu, which must be administered to a patient within 12 hours of symptoms occurring.

For more severe avian flu cases, patients would either be sent to an influenza centre or receive a home visit for treatment.