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Tuesday, January 5, 1999 Published at 11:15 GMT


Extra cash to fight flu crisis

London intensive care units alone will receive £750,000

The government has announced extra money and 2,200 initiatives to help the National Health Service tackle the latest flu outbreak in the UK.

Paul Greer and journalists from around the country report on how the outbreak is effecting the nation
At least 45,000 people went down with the disease over the Christmas period and hospitals have struggled to cope with increased demand.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has already pledged £159m to help hospitals and doctors in England cope.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson revealed on Tuesday details of how the extra money will be spent, including details of the thousands of individual proposals from across the UK on ways to tackle the problem.

Emergency response

London will receive £750,000 to boost intensive care services, with smaller payments going to hospitals in other parts of the country.

Health expert Fiona Plant talks to BBC Radio 5 Live
The elderly and other at-risk groups are at the heart of government proposals, with suggestions of more help for emergency response teams and community nurses.

More money will be spent on educating people about how to avoid becoming ill in the first place, while outpatient services like night sitting will help prevent needless readmissions.

Among the inititiaves announced by the government are:

  • The introduction of "one-stop" clinics, costing £200,000, in Walsall to reduce pressure on in-patient beds;
  • A NHS partnership with local authority housing departments in Calderdale and Kirklees to improve heating and insulation in vulnerable households. Cost £200,000;
  • Community action teams in Leeds to provide rehabilitation, intensive home treatment, a night sitting service and home care help to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. Cost £175,000;
  • A grant of £150,000 for a specialist rapid assessment scheme for elderly patients based at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxfordshire linking to an intensive community support scheme;
  • The creation of a dedicated emergency nurse practitioner service in the A&E Department at the Whittington Hospital, London. Cost £74,000.

Frank Dobson defends the government's record
Mr Dobson said: "Every winter brings extra pressures, but this winter is proving even more challenging than ever.

"The government has done its bit by finding millions of pounds of extra money to target effort and resources where it is needed most.

"But extra money is not enought on its own. The extra money needs to be matched by extra ingenuity and effort."

[ image: Ann Widdecombe: Blamed the government]
Ann Widdecombe: Blamed the government
Shadow health secretary Ann Widdecombe accused the government of creating a crisis in the NHS.

She said: "It is the result largely of this government delaying its winter pressures announcement until it was far to late, giving political priority to routine waiting list operations when these sorts of emergencies were building up and not using the private sector to relieve the strain."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris said: "We only get the NHS we are prepared to pay for. We need less sound bite, and more long term planning and better funding."

Flu to rise

Spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service Simon Barber said that in England and Wales an average of 80 cases of flu per 100,000 people per week were recorded up to 27 December.

"I would imagine there was a slight under-representation of illnesses over the Christmas break, so it may well rise in the next few weeks," he said.

"It is very hard to say, but the latest figures show the average rate of GP consultations for flu is 102 per 100,000."

More exact figures that distinguish between two varieties of flu will be available later this week.

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