The Lords science and technology committee has highlighted “serious questions” about the UK’s preparedness for swine flu.
In a follow-up to its Pandemic Influenza report, the committee praised the government for stockpiling antivirals and ensuring the NHS was ready to set up collection points. But it said a “whole system test” of national plans - now set for September - should have been carried out earlier.
It has “significant concerns” about what it says is a delay in launching a fully functional national pandemic flu phone and internet service.
It also called for more government assurance that there was enough critical care capacity, and that staff would be willing take on tasks “outside their usual professional competence”.
Health secretary Andy Burnham said he was “pleased… the report recognises the extent of our pre-pandemic plans”.
The government was “always clear” the national pandemic flu service “would only be justified when there were widespread levels of flu-like illness across the country”, he said.
Prime minister Gordon Brown requested a special briefing on swine flu last Friday before he went on holiday, attended by Mr Burnham, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson and more than 10 representatives from NHS London and primary care and acute trusts in the capital.
The Department of Health told Mr Brown it is anticipating swine flu infection rates will fall in August, but rise again in September when the weather gets colder and children return to school.
The view was that at the moment there is no need to suspend hospital services or the quality and outcomes framework incentive scheme that makes up some of GPs’ pay.
The prime minister will have a twice weekly written briefing on swine flu from the civil contingencies secretariat while he is away and emergency committee Cobra will meet in his absence.