After the World Health Organisation raised its pandemic flu alert to "phase 4" last night, shadow heath minister Stephen O'Brien has raised serious concerns over the Government's readiness to deal with an outbreak of the virus.

He says that eighteen months after the publication of a framework for responding to an outbreak of pandemic flu, the Government has still failed to put in place its promised National Flu Telephone Line.

It is due to be able to come online when the WHO announces a "phase 5" alert, yet despite previous government claims that it would be set up at the end of last year, later revised to "early 2009", health minister Lord Darzi admitted yesterday that the timetable has slipped to "the autumn".  

Mr O’Brien said:

“Experts have been warning for some time now that we were long overdue another global flu pandemic, which is why we have consistently warned the Government it must do all it can to prepare the country for such an eventuality. It is therefore a legitimate concern that a key part of that plan is some way off being implemented.

"The National Flu Line will be crucial if a pandemic were to happen in Britain, by allowing people to get the information and the anti-virals they will need to fight the flu without having to go to GP surgeries or hospitals. It is absolutely imperative that the Government takes action quickly to ensure that it is able to deal with the high numbers of calls from people who will need help should the virus spread in the UK."

Jonathan Isaby

> Yesterday on CentreRight Julia Manning listed the actions that government needed to take.

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