"Are we prepared for swine flu outbreak?" asks Mark Hunter MP

June 24, 2009 2:19 PM
Mark

Mark asked the Health Secretary how prepared we were for a swine flu outbreak

Yesterday in the House of Commons Mark Hunter, MP for Cheadle constituency, challenged the Health Secretary about the incomplete preparations for coping with the expected increase in swine flu cases, ahead of the report today of the first swine flu case in Greater Manchester.

The Secretary of State for Health confirmed last month that the national flu hotline would not be up and running in May as planned, but that it was six months behind schedule and would not be available until October. People across the country are being advised not to leave their house if they suspect they may have swine flu, to avoid spreading the disease, but to call a NHS hotline for diagnosis. Mr Hunter raised the six month delay of the flu line and asked the Health Secretary for reassurance that the interim arrangements would be able to cope with the massive influx of cases of swine flu expected when the weather turns later in the year.

Commenting after asking the question, Mr Hunter said: "In light of today's announcement that there is now a case of swine flu in Greater Manchester, the Government's response to my question is seriously over complacent.

"As the weather deteriorates in the autumn more and more people will be calling the hotline about potential swine flu cases, and there are real concerns that the interim arrangements - which rely heavily on the capacity of NHS Direct - will not be able to cope with the influx of calls. There will also be a knock-on affect on how quickly NHS Direct will be able to cope with their normal level of calls if their capacity is being used up by possible swine flu patients.

"The national flu line - which was supposed to be activated in May - has now been delayed until October, yet the WHO (World Health Organisation) has designated the epidemic at level 6, the highest level possible. The Treasury's decision to stall on approving funding for the hotline for 32 weeks is appalling considering the importance of such a measure. The flu line will be vital as the pandemic progresses.

"Once again the Government has allowed the Treasury to delay important decisions, which may endanger lives come the autumn when many more cases of swine flu are expected. They need to work to bring forward this measure as a matter of real urgency."

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