London

Chemists 'confused at swine flu drug collection points'

Swine flu vaccine
Image caption London had the lowest vaccine uptake in the country for under 5s.

People and pharmacies in London were confused about collection points for anti-viral drugs during the swine flu outbreak, a report has said.

The London Assembly report found health agencies had prepared for the "worst case scenario" which led to confusion when it turned out to be mild.

But agencies were "generally effective" in tackling the virus, the report said.

A total of 85 people died after contracting the H1N1 virus in London and 123,100 people were taken ill.

'Lowest vaccination uptake'

The report by the Health and Public Services Committee looked at how the pandemic was tackled since April 2009.

Some people had to travel far to collect the medicines while several pharmacies did not know about the location of their local collection points.

James Cleverly, the committee's chairman, said: "In some boroughs they were held in GP surgeries, in other boroughs they were held centrally [in places] like the town halls. We would like to see consistency."

London also had the lowest vaccination uptake in the country with 30.5% of at risk groups and 13.4% of under 5s, compared to 37% and 20.4% nationally.

As planning was aimed at the worst case scenario, PCTs were unclear about their response when it did turn out to be mild, leading to a prolonged containment stage.

Mr Cleverly said: "When it turned out that for most people it was a mild infection and it meant a week off work, we weren't quite sure how to deal with that.

'Learn lessons'

"It is distasteful to discuss what are you going to do to make sure the bus and Tube drivers turn up for work if people are still thinking that we are expecting large scale fatalities."

There were also too many demands on local health agencies which led to "constant report writing".

But the report praised the overall planning and co-ordination.

NHS London's Director of Public Health Dr Simon Tanner said: "We can always learn lessons from these sort of big events.

"I am pleased that the report overall praises the leadership and the planning and makes the point that because we planned, as we did, we were able to contain the spread of the disease in London and indeed the NHS continued routine operations."

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