A telephone and internet service that aims to speed up access to drugs for thousands of people infected with swine flu goes live today.

More than 1,500 people will staff the government’s national flu pandemic service, which aims to help relieve mounting pressure on the frontline NHS.

It is to start operating as a jump in the UK’s swine flu death toll - currently at 31 - is expected by experts.

New figures that will reveal the number of people who have contacted their GP and who have died from the disease will also be released.

Although 1,500 workers will initially staff the flu service - which only covers England - another 500 people are ready to be brought in. Chiefs said the line can operate 24 hours a day if necessary but will initially only cover the daytime.

Staff will be given a checklist of symptoms so they can diagnose callers and give out a numbered code which will allow callers to get Tamiflu anti-viral medicine. The more serious cases will be referred to GPs.

People will also be able to use a website to fill in the checklist and get a voucher number for Tamiflu.