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Government slammed for 'delayed' launch of flu-line

By Nigel Praities

Peers have criticised the delay in launching the national flu-line and have called for clearer information about how the Government intends to reduce the ‘extraordinary pressure' on NHS staff.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report into the handling of the swine flu outbreak said the Government must provide reassurance the NHS would be able to cope with the expected second wave of flu later in the year.

Pulse revealed earlier this month that the RCGP had submitted a damning dossier to the committee detailing how GPs across the country have been left exposed to chaos, with conflicting advice on how to administer antiviral treatment.

The report says their investigation had uncovered ‘significant concerns' over the delay in launching the National Pandemic Flu Service.

‘Bearing in mind the Government's assertion that "at WHO Phase 6 (announced on 11 June) the National Pandemic Flu Line Service will come into operation" and given the move to the mitigation (or treatment) phase and the phasing out of the Flu Response Centres in early July, we would invite the Government to explain why mobilisation of (what we assume to be) the interim service was delayed,' the report reads.

It goes on to ‘seek reassurance' that extra support planned for later on in the year will be fully operational in the autumn and that the Government had conducted ‘stress tests' to make sure the NHS would be able to cope.

‘A pandemic could place extraordinary pressure on critical care capacity.

‘We invite the Department of Health to provide more detailed information about the current basis on which critical care contingency arrangements for a pandemic have been made and, in due course, to explain any changes in the Department's assessment following the whole-system "stress tests" in September or following lessons learnt from actual experience,' says the report.

Commenting on today's report, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb said the report raised ‘serious concerns' about the Government's preparations for dealing with swine flu.

‘Ministers may tell us they've got everything under control, but frontline staff are still not receiving the support and guidance they need to prepare for the possible flood of admissions,' he said.

phoneline is aimed at taking pressure off GPs but delays have been slammed phoneline is aimed at taking pressure off GPs but delays have been slammed

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