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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 10:41 GMT
Flu lessons 'must be learned'

Susan Deacon Scottish Health Minister Susan Deacon visits flu victims

Scotland's deputy chief medical said "lessons must be learned" following the flu outbreak which has gripped the country.

Dr Andrew Fraser said the widespread infection had put a heavy strain on the health service.

However, he stressed that despite a 30% jump in the number of people reporting flu-like symptoms in the last week, the NHS was still coping.

Doctor and patient Strain also felt outside NHS
Dr Fraser added that he hoped the numbers of cases, which have reached epidemic proportions in some areas in the last week, would begin to decrease soon.

The outbreak has led to severe criticism of the Scottish Executive and Health Minister Susan Deacon in particular, who has been accused of failing to introduce adequate preventative measures such as an effective advertising campaign promoting immunisation.

The British Medical Association in Scotland, The British Pharmaceutical Federation and the Royal College of Nursing have suggested a joint working group to assess what has "gone wrong" in dealing with the flu outbreak in a bid ensure no repetition in the future.

Flu nightmare
Dr Fraser pledged that there would be a review of how the outbreak was handled but added that society as a whole should be more prepared.

He said: "It is no surprise to any of us that we have an upsurge of winter illness and we all must learn lessons about being prepared when winter comes on.

"I think there is always merit in looking and learning about what is happening and what has happened and we will do that at the end of the current episode of winter illness.

'Upsurge of illness'

"Winter comes with an upsurge of illness of this sort. We can rarely predict how high it will be but this has been a high peak of illness and no doubt there has been an extreme challenge to the health service.

"It has also been a challenge to people at home, in businesses, in nursing homes, everywhere in Scotland and we can learn lessons from that."

Dr Fraser said people should be aware of the autumn flu immunisation campaign and ensure they are following a well balanced diet.

The medical chief expressed optimism that the worst of the outbreak would soon be over.

""I think we should certainly hope to see in the next week or two a levelling off of the incidence of flu-like illness," he said.
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