UK Parliament committee to crack down on Brown Government over swine flu chaos

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London, July 26 (ANI): A powerful parliamentary committee has warned the Gordon Brown-led New Labour Government that it will be seeking answers from it in the coming week on why measures for countering the swine flu pandemic in the country continues to be chaotic.

This week's report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee is the first to look into the Government's preparedness for pandemic flu.

It said that it would hold ministers accountable for delaying the setting up of a national flu help line by April as promised and for giving confusing advice to vulnerable groups and National Health Service (NHS) staff.

The committee said that it will publish a report even as senior doctors hold an urgent meeting with British Health Secretary Andy Burnham to convince him to drop a controversial European rules limiting the hours doctors can work, reports The Telegraph.

From Saturday, doctors will not be allowed to work more than 48 hours a week, under EU rules. Many senior doctors, who say it will put lives at risk, have fiercely resisted the change.

It could mean that the NHS is short of doctors just as pressure on hospitals caused by the swine flu outbreak intensifies.

Doctors can opt out of the directive on a voluntary basis, but only individually, throwing rota planning into "chaos", according to senior doctors. They want whole departments or specialties to be allowed to suspend the rules.

One doctor warned that the NHS was facing a "triple whammy" as it struggled with swine flu, the introduction of the European Union Working Time Directive and the movement of more than 30,000 junior doctors between hospitals as part of the annual rotation of specialties.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation has also exposed major security lapses in the national flu pandemic service that would allow fraudsters to obtain dozens of doses of Tamiflu - the main drug being issued to swine flu victims.

The paper has also discovered that maternity units are planning to cancel home births and planned caesarean sections if the outbreak turns into a major epidemic.

This newspaper disclosed in May that the delay in the launching of a swine flu help line was caused by the Treasury, which took seven months to sign off on the deal.

The hold-up meant the Government had to introduce a stopgap flu phone line, introduced last week, manned by staff given just one day of training.

In the meantime, NHS Direct, which should have been running the service, has made hundreds of its highly trained staff redundant. (ANI)

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