Gales View - July 22nd 2009

I have long regarded the Regional Health Authority as a costly and largely redundant tier of NHS management.  It is high on my personal list of the bodies that a next Conservative government will need to abolish.  It does, however, now have an opportunity to show whether it is of any value.

East Kent has a population at high risk of a swine flu epidemic. The age of residents is, in many areas, almost double the national average and with the greatest levels of social deprivation in the South East it is likely that many young people may also find themselves in jeopardy.

With confirmed cases, nationally, rising towards the one hundred thousand mark and the number of deaths from this disease escalating we need to know that all that can be done to prevent and to treat is being done.  Governments cannot eradicate the threat from pandemic infections but they can ensure that preparations for handling any outbreak are complete and appropriate measures in place.

I want to know, on behalf of my constituents, that every GP surgery in North Thanet, and each individual general practitioner, is briefed as to the best and correct advice to offer to their patients and that adequate supplies of such drugs as are already available are in place and ready for dispensing.

That is why I have written, with a request under the Freedom of Information Act, to both the Strategic Health Authority and to the East Kent and Primary Care Trust.  I want to know that adequate supplies of Tamiflu, at present the only available efficacious treatment, have been purchased and distributed and I want to know on what basis they will be made available. With an indication that older adults in good health may have a natural resistance to influenzas built up over the years it must be vital that, particularly,  children and those with existing threatening conditions, are afforded priority. I shall publish the responses that I receive.

I also want to be assured, on behalf of those that I represent, that arrangements are in place to implement a programme of mass vaccination as soon as the relevant vaccine has been developed and is in production later in the year.  With the worst of the epidemic predicted to be likely to arrive in the autumn it is vital for the sake of the County's health and for the sake of a very fragile economy, that we take every possible measure to limit the damage.  We may not be able to control the problem but we can contain it and I hope that the Strategic Health Authority will now show real leadership and demonstrate that it has more than words and bureaucracy to offer.

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