We review experience in England of the swine flu pandemic between May 2009 and April 2010. The surveillance data from the Royal College of General Practitioners Weekly Returns Service and the linked virological data collected in the integrated program with the Health Protection Agency are used as a reference frame to consider issues emerging during the pandemic. Ten lessons are summarized. (1) Delay between illness onset in the first worldwide cases and virological diagnosis restricted opportunities for containment by regional prophylaxis. (2) Pandemic vaccines are unlikely to be available for effective prevention during the first wave of a pandemic. (3) Open, realistic and continuing communication with the public is important. (4) Surveillance programs should be continued through summer as well as winter. (5) Severity of illness should be incorporated in pandemic definition. (6) The reliability of diagnostic tests as used in routine clinical practice calls for further investigation. (7) Evidence from serological studies is not consistent with evidence based on health care requests made by sick persons and is thus of limited value in cost effectiveness studies. (8) Pregnancy is an important risk factor. (9) New strategies for administering vaccines need to be explored. (10) Acceptance by the public and by health professionals of influenza vaccination as the major plank on which the impact of influenza is controlled has still not been achieved.