During the 2009 influenza pandemic, a rapid assessment of disease severity was a challenge as a significant proportion of cases did not seek medical care; care-seeking behaviour changed and the proportion asymptomatic was unknown. A random-digit-dialling telephone survey was undertaken during the 2011/12 winter season in England and Wales to address the feasibility of answering these questions. A proportional quota sampling strategy was employed based on gender, age group, geographical location, employment status and level of education. Households were recruited pre-season and re-contacted immediately following peak seasonal influenza activity. The pre-peak survey was undertaken in October 2011 with 1061 individuals recruited and the post-peak telephone survey in March 2012. Eight hundred and thirty-four of the 1061 (78.6%) participants were successfully re-contacted. Their demographic characteristics compared well to national census data. In total, 8.4% of participants self-reported an influenza-like illness (ILI) in the previous 2 weeks, with 3.2% conforming to the World Health Organization (WHO) ILI case definition. In total, 29.6% of the cases reported consulting their general practitioner. 54.1% of the 1061 participants agreed to be re-contacted about providing biological samples. A population-based cohort was successfully recruited and followed up. Longitudinal survey methodology provides a practical tool to assess disease severity during future pandemics.