After prospective mothers were issued with alarming advice to consider putting off getting pregnant until the swine flu pandemic has passed, Andy Burnham, the health secretary, today urged the British public to have confidence in how the NHS was handling the crisis.
The weekend saw a spate of worrying headlines hit the newspapers, from conflicting advice about what pregnant women should do to protect themselves to criticism of the handling of the pandemic hotline.
The NHS Website had advised pregnant women to reduce their chances of getting infected by avoiding public transport and crowded spaces. The Royal College of Midwives went further and suggested expectant mothers might want to leave earlier or later to avoid rush hour tubes. It is believed pregnant women are particularly at risk from swine flu, as their immune systems work less well to prevent the baby being rejected.
However the website was then changed on Sunday and later the department of heath released a statement saying that they “might consider” avoiding crowds but that it was important to carry on with their routine.
The National Childbirth Trust advised women to consider postponing pregnancy, but the chairman of the Royal College of GPs dismissed the advice as ‘scaremongering.”
Meanwhile, the Observer newspaper carried a story claiming that the national pandemic hotline, providing advice to patients and helping distribute anti-viral drugs, was severely delayed by infighting between different Whitehall departments.
Andy Burnham went on to GMTV (he seems to like it there – he’s made a couple of “don’t panic” type statements from the comfort of their squishy sofas) to deny that there had been any conflicting advice issued.
He said that Britain had the best preparations in place to cope with the pandemic and was dealing with it “fantastically well.” There have, however, been reports of chaos at the first distribution centre for anti-virals in London and we have noticed a deluge of new enquiries from members of the public who do not trust the Government's system of distribution to get Tamiflu to them in time. There has also been concern that the new Swine Flu hotline will be staffed by people without any medical training.