Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 20:24 UK

Wales opting out of flu service

Advice leaflet
Hygiene advice is being offered to people

Wales will not be part of the National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) when it is launched in England next week, says Health Minister Edwina Hart.

Swine flu deaths doubled in England in the last week, and the service will relieve pressures on hospitals and GPs.

The minister said Wales is "well behind the curve compared to areas of England" for the number of swine flu cases.

The Conservatives said there was already extra pressure on the Welsh NHS and that was only going to get worse.

The NPFS will be made up of a dedicated website and a central call centre assessing people on symptoms of swine flu and authorises antiviral treatments.

Mrs Hart said in Wales existing primary care routes would continue to be used to manage treatment.

We will continue to focus on providing care and support to people through existing services
Health Minister Edwina Hart

Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland, will still be able to plug into the National Flu Service if required.

Mrs Hart said: "Wales is well behind the curve compared to areas of England in terms of the numbers of swine flu cases.

"The situation in Wales therefore remains the same. People in Wales who experience flu-like symptoms should stay at home and call the Swine Flu Information line on 0800 1 513 513 or use the website

"If the symptoms are causing concern, or people are in an at-risk group such as those with a chronic condition like heart or lung disease, children under five or pregnant women, they should phone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or phone their GP as they are a priority for early antiviral treatment.

"However, the virus is proving to be mild for most people and so most can self-care and will recover without the need for antivirals," added the minister.

Whole population

"We will continue to focus on providing care and support to people through existing services that they are more familiar with and comfortable with using for as long as possible."

Ms Hart said the NHS in Wales was developing patient contact arrangements through GPs and call centres. Arrangements were also under way to for arrangements with community pharmacies to supplement existing ways of collecting antivirals where needed.

So far Wales has 67 confirmed cases of swine flu.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Tony Jewell said up to 30% of the population could catch swine flu over the next 12-18 months.

He added: "However, we have anti-virals to reduce the symptoms should people catch it, and we have ordered vaccines to cover the whole population."

Conservative health spokesperson Andrew RT Davies said: "The minister clearly has confidence in Wales' existing systems and that is reassuring.

"However there is already extra pressure on the Welsh NHS and that is only going to get worse.

"We must ensure people are getting a flow of clear and concise information about what to do if they suspect they may have contracted swine flu."

NHS Direct can be contacted on 0845 46 47

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