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Swine Flu

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) primary care trusts and (b) hospitals on their preparations for a swine influenza outbreak. (289493)

The Secretary of State for Health meets regularly with the NHS chief executive and the NHS flu resilience director, who are responsible for ensuring the national health service is prepared for a swine flu outbreak.

On 2 July, the national director for NHS flu resilience, Ian Dalton, wrote to all NHS chief executives to make clear the expectation that preparedness plans need to be reviewed and subjected to further testing.

To further support local planning, on 10 September, a strategy for critical care services was published that sets out how ventilated critical care capacity can be increased in the NHS during the peak weeks of a potential second wave of swine flu. The published full critical care strategy sets out how the NHS will collectively achieve this increase. A copy has been placed in the Library.

On 10 September, the national director for pandemic influenza preparedness, Lindsey Davies, also hosted a pandemic flu conference on the theme of “Looking back, moving forward”. The conference, attended by 375 delegates, was open to strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and local authority representatives with health and social care responsibilities. The focus of the day was on the swine flu response to date, delivering the swine flu vaccination programme, the challenges that lie ahead and sharing best practice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on informing the British tourism industry on the effect of the swine influenza pandemic in the UK. (289657)

The Civil Contingencies Committee has been meeting regularly since the swine flu outbreak, and is chaired by the Secretary of State for Health. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport attends these meetings at which all elements of the Government's response to the swine influenza pandemic are discussed.

Throughout the outbreak, the Government have provided a wide range of advice to businesses generally about the impacts swine flu could have on them, through mechanisms such as the Business Advisory Network on Flu and the BusinessLink website. Planning assumptions have been issued which are of use to all sectors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what criteria his Department uses to identify epidemic levels of swine influenza in an area; and in which areas such levels have been identified to date. (290152)

We are now relying on clinical diagnosis instead of laboratory confirmation to identify cases of swine flu.

The rates of general practitioner (GP) consultations for influenza—like illness from a sample of participating GP practices is used to identify epidemic levels of swine flu activity in an area.

The current criteria used to define the level of flu activity are:

Baseline (outside of a normal flu season) activity (<30 GP consultations per 100,000) during a week;

Normal seasonal activity (30-200 GP consultations per 100,000) during a week; and

Epidemic activity (>200 GP consultations per 100,000 people) during a week.

Strategic health authorities that experienced levels of above 200 GP consultations per 100,000 population over the summer of 2009 are:


North East;

East Midlands;

North West;

West Midlands;

South West; and

South East Coast.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many calls the swine flu information line had received on the latest date for which figures are available; and how much his Department has spent on that service. (291783)

As of 5 pm 25 September 2009, around 1.3 million calls to the information line were received.

Up to 30 September, the Department has spent around £230,000 on the provision of the service.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the Statement of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 583-5, on swine flu, which groups will be regarded as higher risk for the purposes of vaccine prioritisation. (291856)

Based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the following groups will be the first to be vaccinated with H1N1 swine flu vaccine, in the following order:

individuals aged between six months and up to 65 years in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups;

all pregnant women, subject to licensing conditions on trimesters;

household contacts of immuno-compromised individuals; and

people aged 65 years and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups.

In addition to this, front line health and social care workers will be offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical at risk groups as they are at increased risk of infection and of transmitting that infection to susceptible patients.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the Statement of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 583-5, on swine flu, if he will place in the Library a copy of the analysis he received which showed that the initial containment policy for swine flu worked well. (291857)

The Health Protection Agency has worked with independent academic experts to analyse the impact of the containment policy on the spread of the virus in the United Kingdom. This work has been submitted for publication and a copy of the publication will be placed in the Library when it is available.

The Health Protection Agency is also conducting a full review of the containment phase that is expected to be completed in early 2010.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) with reference to the Statement of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 583-5, on swine flu, how many people will be employed to staff the interim flu line service; and how many calls per day the interim service will be capable of handling; (291858)

(2) how many courses of antivirals have been dispensed for the treatment of patients with swine flu in each (a) age group and (b) primary care trust since 2 July 2009;

(3) pursuant to the answer of 16 July 2009, Official Report, column 671W, on swine flu, what the additional antiviral collection point functionality added to the flu line service is;

(4) what the differences are between the full National Pandemic Flu Line Service and the interim solution.

The interim National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) launched with 1,500 concurrent seats from seven call centre operators, operating from 19 sites across the United Kingdom. Over 3,500 agents were initially trained to provide the service. The agents are employed by a range of private and public sector call centre operators to ensure that the service can flexibly operate seat and agent supply to meet public demand.

The service is capable of operating 7,500 concurrent call centre seats. This level of operation, if required, would enable around 1 million calls in a 24 hour period to be handled by call centre operators in addition to those using the web service.

From the launch of the interim NPFS on 23 July 2009 to 29 September 2009, around 590,000 antivirals were dispensed for treatment of patients. The breakdown by age group and primary care trust has been placed in the Library.

These figures relate solely to antivirals collected through the NPFS, as antivirals distributed between 2-22 July 2009 were distributed through normal primary care routes and by the Health Protection Agency; those data are still being collated.

The antiviral collection point system that has been developed enables members of staff in collection points to:

check the validity of an authorisation number generated by the NPFS;

check and confirm the name of the patient and the antiviral and dose authorised;

check that the authorisation number has not been used previously to collect an antiviral;

record the checking of identification (ID), and types of ID provided by the flu friend for themselves and the patient;

record the details of the flu friend who has collected the antiviral;

record the collection of the antiviral to prevent the authorisation number being used more than once; and

provide regular information on the number of antivirals issued using an authorisation number.

The autumn solution (i.e. full NPFS) does have increased functionality and offers a more flexible information technology platform.

Individuals who use the service will follow a very similar process to the current service. The main change from an individual's perspective is the additional ID functionality. An overview of additional functionality is as follows:

a dynamic algorithm will provide greater flexibility if the algorithm needs to be changed and enables changes to be processed more quickly;

an enhanced ID process: identification can be verified during the assessment as well as at the collection point;

the functionality to re-issue an authorisation number through NPFS will be available to enable patients who forget their authorisation number to re-contact the service quickly and efficiently to access a new number that can be used in an antiviral collection point; and

the autumn service is planned to offer additional languages on the web.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the Statement of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 583-5, on swine flu, which 110 primary care trusts had reported exceptional levels of flu like illness. (291859)

The primary care trusts (PCTs) that reported exceptional levels of flu like illness are:

Tower Hamlets PCT

Greenwich Teaching PCT

Islington PCT

Lewisham PCT

Leicester City PCT

Barking and Dagenham PCT

Harrow PCT

Bedfordshire PCT

Coventry Teaching PCT

Middlesbrough PCT

South Tyneside PCT

City and Hackney Teaching PCT

Telford and Wrekin PCT

Redbridge PCT

South Birmingham PCT

Hillingdon PCT

Sutton and Merton PCT

Lambeth PCT

Camden PCT

Warrington PCT

Buckinghamshire PCT

Enfield PCT

Brent Teaching PCT

Blackburn with Darwen PCT

County Durham PCT

East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT

Manchester PCT

Newham PCT

Gateshead PCT

Northumberland Care Trust

South Staffordshire PCT

Sunderland Teaching PCT

West Kent PCT

Peterborough PCT

Southwark PCT

Ealing PCT

Havering PCT

Portsmouth City Teaching PCT

Somerset PCT

Blackpool PCT

North Tyneside PCT

Redcar and Cleveland PCT

Halton and St. Helens PCT

Nottinghamshire County PCT

Luton PCT

Warwickshire PCT

Nottingham City PCT

Oxfordshire PCT

Swindon PCT

Gloucestershire PCT

Hammersmith and Fulham PCT

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale PCT

Brighton and Hove City PCT

Medway PCT

Leicestershire County and Rutland PCT

Kingston PCT


Central Lancashire PCT

Wandsworth PCT

Solihull Care Trust

West Hertfordshire PCT

Herefordshire PCT

Stockport PCT

Shropshire County PCT

Bromley PCT

Northamptonshire PCT

Cambridgeshire PCT

North Lancashire PCT

Bristol PCT

Derby City PCT

Westminster PCT

Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT

Wakefield District PCT

Southampton City PCT

Western Cheshire PCT

Suffolk PCT

Barnet PCT

South Gloucestershire PCT

Derbyshire County PCT

Waltham Forest PCT

Berkshire West PCT

Hampshire PCT

Newcastle PCT

Worcestershire PCT

Doncaster PCT

Hounslow PCT

East Lancashire PCT

Wirral PCT

Bolton PCT

North Yorkshire and York PCT

Liverpool PCT

Plymouth Teaching PCT

North Somerset PCT

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT

East and North Hertfordshire PCT

Croydon PCT

Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT

Lincolnshire PCT

Wolverhampton City PCT

West Sussex PCT

Stoke on Trent PCT

Surrey PCT

West Essex PCT

Knowsley PCT

Leeds PCT

Devon PCT

Norfolk PCT

Sefton PCT

Tameside and Glossop PCT

Milton Keynes PCT

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much his Department has spent on the provision of information on swine flu; and how much further expenditure on such provision he has planned. (291862)

Communicating accurate and timely information to the general public and health care professionals during the current swine flu pandemic has been recognised as a priority by the Department and by the World Health Organisation.

We have communicated regularly via a range of channels including advertising, online information, technical and professional guidance and media briefing, including by Ministers, senior officials and clinicians.

Because of this, it is not possible to quantify accurately the cost of all this activity in producing information on swine flu, however we are able to give a figure for public advertising activity.

The cost of advertising and publicity activity in England on swine influenza, including the Swine Flu Information Phone Line, is approximately £8.2 million to date.

This may increase over the course of the pandemic. Various scenarios are being considered to allow a flexible response if swine flu escalates to ensure that the public have timely and accurate information about the disease, how to protect against it, and how to access treatment if they catch it.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans his Department has to provide vaccinations against swine influenza to homebound patients. (292317)

The Department has asked primary care trusts and strategic health authorities to work with local national health service stakeholders to develop local plans to ensure that all of those identified in the Chief Medical Officer’s list of high priority groups receive their swine flu vaccinations. These plans should include provision for housebound patients.

The Department will be supporting this work by providing core materials about swine flu vaccination for staff training and communications with the public and NHS staff.