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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 15:33 GMT
Deacon rejects 'flu crisis' claim

GP's practice Ms Deacon says the NHS has coped "exceptionally"

Scotland's Health Minister Susan Deacon has told MSPs that the country's National Health Service is coping "exceptionally" well with the flu outbreak.

Although she recognised that admissions in some hospitals were up by 50%, the NHS was not facing a crisis and was not in chaos.

I stress that this is a situation to be managed not a crisis to be manufactured
Susan Deacon, Health Minister
In a statement to the parliament on Wednesday she said: "Words like crisis, chaos and shambles should not be used to describe the NHS in Scotland - that is a language I do not know and do not understand.

"There has been exceptional pressure which has been met with exceptional effort.

"I stress that this is a situation to be managed not a crisis to be manufactured."

Susan Deacon Susan Deacon: "No crisis"
But she conceded: "We can always improve, we can always get better, we can always learn from experiences."

Ms Deacon said experts are predicting that the flu outbreak is likely to peak next week, but she believes the problems will not go away quickly.

However, opposition MSPs rounded on the minister and accused her of putting a gloss over the very real crisis in the NHS.

Make shift wards, nursing staff doing back-to-back shifts, the cancellation of non-emergency operations - is that coping?
Kay Ullrich, SNP
The Scottish National Party's Kay Ullrich said: "Make shift wards, nursing staff doing back-to-back shifts, the cancellation of non-emergency operations - is that coping?

"That is what I call crisis management."

She went on to question why there had not been a nation-wide campaign to encourage the take-up of the flu vaccination.

But Ms Deacon said the targeting of key groups including the elderly had been done adequately and flu vaccinations - costing 2m - have been available to GP practices since the autumn.

Thanks for health service staff

She commended NHS staff, local authorities for its efforts in providing residential care to the elderly and the public themselves who had taken advice and stayed at home.

Latest figures show that the country as a whole is not yet in the grip of an epidemic which is declared when there are 1,000 cases of infection per 100,000 people in Scotland.

The British Medical Association said earlier in the week it was unhappy with the Ms Deacon's continuing insistence that there is no winter crisis north of the border.

The organisation questioned her handling over the flu vaccination programme for the elderly.

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Deacon faces renewed flu attack
08 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Executive ignored flu warning, says BMA
09 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu outbreak 'under control'
05 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu 'epidemic' warning
07 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Trusts declare flu 'red alert'
05 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Flu ravages Scotland
06 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Scottish hospitals under pressure
04 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Flu bugs hit Scotland
02 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Sailors 'ship in' flu bug
05 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu hits NHS hard
08 Apr 99 |  Medical notes
Flu: The facts

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