Embargo: 10:00am Tuesday 28 July 2009
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
LORDS' SCIENCE COMMITTEE PUBLISH FOLLOW-UP REPORT ON PANDEMIC FLU
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has today published its follow-up report on Pandemic Influenza. The follow-up inquiry, which was begun in November 2008 before the emergence of swine flu, has evolved in the course of the inquiry as the new threat of the H1N1 has become apparent.
While the report praises the Government's actions in stockpiling antivirals such as Tamiflu and entering into advance purchase agreements for pandemic specific vaccines
. The Committee criticise other aspects of the Government's preparations for the swine flu pandemic. Some of the criticisms the Committee make include:
The Committee want clarity on how intensive and critical care facilities would be expected to perform in a pandemic and where there are weaknesses in critical care provision which should be addressed.
The Committee have 'significant concerns' about the delay in the operation of the National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) and ask the Government to explain this delay. They also seek assurances that the service will be able to meet anticipated demand and be fully operational by autumn to meet the challenges of the anticipated 'second wave' of swine flu.
The Committee are disappointed the process of 'whole system' testing (examining how the full range of health services could react in a pandemic) was not carried our earlier.
The Committee ask the Government to clarify what interim services are in place until the 'enhanced' NPFS comes on-stream and to make clear how the service will interact with NHS Direct.
The report calls on the Government to clarify how they will ensure NHS staff are supported in providing services that may be outside their areas of expertise and if they will be protected from legal action when they provide this treatment. The Committee also want better guidance on ethical decisions on who could have access to limited flu treatments/vaccines.
Commenting Lord Sutherland, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:
"While the Government have got some things right in preparing for a flu pandemic, such as the stockpiling of antivirals, there are other areas where we appear to be under prepared.
"We are particularly concerned that the 'enhanced' NPFS or 'flu line' is not fully operational and there seems to be a lack of clarity about how the 'interim' flu line will interact with NHS Direct.
"We were surprised and disappointed that the Government had not undertaken 'whole system' testing of health services preparations for a flu pandemic before swine flu emerged."
Notes to Editors
The report began as a follow-up to the Committee's December 2005 report when the main threat of a new flu pandemic was H5N1 or avian flu. During the course of the inquiry the emergence of H1N1 was reported prompting the Committee to look in more detail at preparations in the context of this new pandemic.
The report will be available online shortly after publication at: