DoH under swine flu pressure

Health secretary Andy Burnham faced criticism today that conflicting advice has been issued to pregnant women over swine flu.
Health secretary Andy Burnham faced criticism today that conflicting advice has been issued to pregnant women over swine flu.

By Liz Stephens

Health secretary Andy Burnham faced criticism today that conflicting advice has been issued to pregnant women over swine flu.

The NHS UK website suggests expectant mothers should avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel but a statement from officials on Sunday night said it was important to carry on with daily routine.

Speaking on the BBC this morning, the health secretary said while the advice "has not changed" it was "not hard and fast" and called on people to use their own judgement.


The controversy comes as the NHS takes centre-stage in the debate on government spending.

Mr Burnham stressed that swine flu had proved to be a mild virus so far in the vast majority of people.

He also reiterated that there was no need for the public to panic: "As the World Health Organization has acknowledged, this country has some of the best plans to deal with it in the world.

"We couldn't be in a stronger position."

The health secretary also announced the launch of a National Pandemic Flu Service in England this week, amid criticism that it is too-little-too-late.

"Technology to launch the service has been available for some time," he said.

"But with these latest figures and drawing on advice from the field we have now reached a point where this service is required.

"To act any sooner would have been a distraction to health staff dealing with it."

The Liberal Democrats have alleged that government in-fighting delayed the launch of the service - which will include a hotline and internet advice to help relieve the pressure on frontline NHS staff - by six months.

"It is incredibly frustrating that the national flu strategy is inevitably being undermined because this central plank is not in place," said Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb.

"Not only is this putting an additional burden on GPs, but the government is having to use taxpayers' money to cover the cost of setting up an interim service which should not have been necessary in the first place."

A Department of Health spokesman said the delays were caused because the scale of the flu service project meant it needed to be "rigorously tested".

Twenty-nine people have so far died from swine flu in the UK and last week it was reported that Cherie Blair was among the latest people to have contracted the disease.

The government has warned that the number of deaths from the virus this winter in the UK could reach between 19,000 and 65,000.

Comments

Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.