source: The Journal
by: Helen Rae
HEALTH chiefs spent more than £2m in the North East on the swine flu scare, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.
A survey of 107 Primary Care Trusts in England highlights the cost of responding to swine flu was £340,000 on average for every trust.
But in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland the cost in 2009/10 was higher than the national average, with £600,000 being spent by each PCT.
Meanwhile in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland the costs ran to £266,667 for each trust.
In total £2,600,001 was spent on battling the pandemic which cost 16 lives in the North East and 298 nationally – normal flu costs the lives of more than 1,000 people each year.
The money was invested in anti-viral collection points, storage and distribution of anti-virals and vaccines, additional equipment, staff training and public awareness campaigns.
Health bosses last night insisted no trust in the region would have to scale-back their services in order to accommodate the significant amount spent. Martin Wilson, of NHS North East said: “Resources for pandemic flu are allocated as part of NHS ongoing emergency planning arrangements.
“As soon as swine flu arrived, all NHS North East organisations worked quickly to identify and refine resources to deal with the logistics of managing swine flu. NHS services in the region coped very well with the additional pressures of swine flu, ensuring business as usual throughout the pandemic period and no compromise in the delivery of other services”.
A spokesperson for NHS North of Tyne, working on behalf of Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts and Northumberland Care Trust said: “We have continuous plans in place for a flu pandemic as part of our ongoing emergency preparedness and business continuity.
“We estimate the cost of managing the pandemic for the financial year 2009/10 was in the region of £800,000, across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, which in the main was off set by Department of Health funding for swine flu counter measures including anti-virals and vaccines.
“We have made no cuts to services to recoup any money spent on swine flu and have no plans to at this time. We have coped very well with the additional pressures of swine flu, ensuring business as usual throughout the pandemic period and no compromise in the delivery of other services.
“The swine flu vaccination campaign continues through spring and summer to protect vulnerable groups.”
A spokeswoman for NHS South of Tyne and Wear, which covers Gateshead Primary Care Trust, South Tyneside Primary Care Trust and Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, said: “We constantly have to be prepared to meet the costs of emergency situations.
“During the exceptional circumstances of the flu pandemic, we did everything we could to ensure that local people were protected.
“The costs to our PCTs were met through efficient use of our resources during the year and from our reserves and no services were cut back as a result. There will not be a need to recover any of these costs in 2010/11.”