"Are preparations for swine flu adequate?" asks local MP

July 10, 2009 3:58 PM
Mark asked for a debate on swine flu preparations in the House of Commons

Mark asked for a debate on swine flu preparations in the House of Commons

Yesterday (Thursday 9th July) Mark Hunter, MP for the Cheadle constituency, once again raised in Parliament concerns about the country's state of readiness for the expected increase in swine flue cases in the autumn, calling for the Health Secretary to agree to a major debate in the House of Commons.

Mr Hunter first raised the issue at health questions three weeks ago, when only one swine flu death in the UK had occurred. He questioned the Secretary of State about delays in the setting up of the national flu hotline, which was planned to start in May but will now not be available until October. The hotline is supposed to be available so that people who suspect they have swine flu do not leave their home and spread the disease.

Latest news revealed today confirms that 14 people have now died of swine flu, with thousands of other cases, including 335 people in hospital in England and 43 in critical care. In light of the dramatic increase in swine flu cases and deaths, Mr Hunter asked for the Leader of the House of Commons for a full debate in Government time so that concerns over the state of readiness can be answered directly by the Health Secretary.

Commenting after requesting the debate Mr Hunter said, "The answer from the Leader of the House shows a staggering complacency. It's vital that the Government allows time for this important debate. With the UK now with the third highest number of swine flu cases in the world after the USA and Mexico (9,718 confirmed cases, but the actual number is expected to be much higher), it's vital that we know exactly how our health service is coping and how well prepared we are for a further increase of epidemic proportions which is expected.

"Constituents have contacted me with some very real concerns that deserve answers. Do we have enough tamiflu, the anti-virus drug used to treat swine flu? Do we have enough spare hospital beds for the expected increase of cases in the autumn? What contingency plans we have if the virus changes and mutates so that it becomes resistant to tamiflu? Should face masks be made available to slow the spread of the disease? Will the contingency plans for the flu hotline have enough capacity to cope with the epidemic expected in September? When will the full flu hotline be up and running? All these are important questions and the Health Secretary has a responsibility to answer them."

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