PN121005STII

IMMEDIATE

WEDNESDAY 12 OCTOBER 2005

ATTENTION: SCIENCE/MEDICAL/HEALTH/POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS

HOW WELL IS THE UK PREPARING FOR A POSSIBLE FLU PANDEMIC? ASK LORDS COMMITTEE

The UK's contingency planning for a possible outbreak of pandemic influenza is being investigated by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

The new inquiry into pandemic influenza is a follow up to its extensive 2003 report on Fighting Infection which found that the UK's defences to fight infection needed reinforcing.

Chaired by Lord Broers, the new inquiry will look at the supply of vaccines and anti-viral drugs, the readiness of front-line NHS services, and the need to educate the public on how to react to a pandemic.

Public Hearing

11 am  Thursday 13 October (Committee Room 3)

  • Dr Jan Slingenbergh (Senior Officer, UN Food and Agriculture Organization Animal Health Service)

  • Daniel Parker (Chair, British Veterinary Association Avian Influenza Advisory Group)

The Committee will hold public meetings in October and early November, and aim to report before Christmas 2005.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The report Fighting Infection (2003), chaired by Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, examined the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of infectious disease, and made recommendations to the Government, the Health Protection Agency and other organisations involved in educating health professionals as to how these services could be improved.

The report is available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldselect/ldsctech/138/13801.htm

The press release about the report is available at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_press_notices/pn180703sti.cfm

2. Watch the evidence session live via www.parliamentlive.tv

3. Throughout its inquiry the Committee hope to address the following questions:

The risk

  • How is the risk of pandemic influenza emerging in south-east Asia, and reaching the UK, being assessed; and how can this assessment be improved?

  • How great are the risks, and what confidence can be placed in these figures?

  • How is the UK working with international bodies to: monitor the development of the virus; and reduce the risk of pandemic influenza emerging and spreading?

Contingency planning in the UK

  • What is the current assessment of the likely impact of pandemic influenza on the UK (both in terms of health and on wider society, including the economy)?

  • Are the measures described in the revised UK Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan adequate to minimise the effects of a pandemic? What more could be done?

  • How well prepared and co-ordinated are health, emergency and other essential services for responding to a pandemic?

  • What is being done to ensure that the general public are aware of the risks and likely effects of a pandemic, and of how they should react?

  • Is the UK's stockpile of antiviral treatments adequate, and how will it be distributed? What steps are being taken to ensure that the UK has  access to sufficient antiviral treatment and vaccine in the event of a flu pandemic?

  • What will be the role of vaccine development, manufacture and distribution in responding to a pandemic?

  • What is the long-term strategy for reducing the threat of  pandemic influenza?

[ENDS]