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Influenza

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans his Department has to assist (a) hospitals, (b) GP practices and (c) chemists in the event of a swine influenza pandemic. (273307)

The Department has already provided a great deal of support to hospitals, practices and chemists in the form of guidance and on-going workshops to ensure that contingency and business continuity issues had been thought through in advance of a pandemic and addressed.

Copies of the relevant guidance have been placed in the Library. Guidance for pharmacists is in the process of being finalised and will be placed in the Library as soon as it is published.

We also supported the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in producing guidance for general practitioner practices which is available on the BMA and RCGP website at:

www.bma.org.uk/health_promotion_ethics/influenza/panfluguiddec08.jsp

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department has taken to implement its national framework for responding to an influenza pandemic. (276392)

Since November 2007 (when the National Framework was published) the following key milestones have been delivered:

stockpiles of antivirals to cover 50 per cent. of the population have been ordered and are now in place. Contracts have been signed for the development of the ‘Flu Line’ which will ensure rapid deployment of antivirals to patients. Orders have been placed to increase the United Kingdom antiviral stockpile from 33.5 million to about 50 million, which would be enough to cover 80 per cent. of the population;

on 14 May the Government announced the signing of agreements with vaccine manufacturers for up to 90 million doses of a pre-pandemic vaccine based on the current H1N1 strain. The agreements could provide enough vaccine to protect the most vulnerable groups in our population before a pandemic is likely to arrive;

we are on course to have sufficient antibiotic stocks to cover 31 per cent. of the United Kingdom population (19.6 million courses) by the end of September 2009, with the stockpile reaching over 10 per cent. (6.3 million courses) by the end of May 2009;

we have placed orders for 226 million additional facemasks and 34 million additional respirators, to be delivered over time, for the use of frontline health and social care staff;

significantly, enhanced local planning is in place. Every NHS trust and Local Resilience Forum in England has validated pandemic specific plans in place. All LRF plans are available in the public domain, and can be accessed on the internet at:

www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ukresilience/pandemicflu/plans/regiona_plans.aspx

a suite of guidance documents have been published to aid planners in their preparations for an influenza pandemic. Most notably guidance has been published on the management of excess deaths, school closures, the local response, the health response, infection control, the judicial system and a checklist to aid businesses in pandemic planning. These are available on the UK resilience website at:

www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ukresilience/pandemicflu/guidance.aspx

the Government launched its pandemic preparedness international strategy in November 2008. This strategy is the first of its kind and sets priorities for the UK Government's work with international organisations over the next three to five years. A copy has already been placed in the Library.