Swine flu vaccine Swine flu panic 2009 Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
Just one in five people given Tamiflu by NHS hotline was
actually suffering from swine flu (and 800,000 wrongly told to stay home)
By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 8:09 AM on 09th December 2009
Hundreds of thousands of people were wrongly diagnosed with swine flu after calling the Government's emergency helpline, it was revealed yesterday.
Around 800,000 people were incorrectly told to stop work and take the Tamiflu drug, costing employers hundreds of millions of pounds and adding to the NHS drug bill.
In fact just one in every five people diagnosed by the controversial call
centres actually had the illness.
And at the height of the scare during the summer the rate fell to as low as one in 20, the Health Protection Agency disclosed.
The revelation came as a survey concluded there was no clear evidence that
Tamiflu reduced the risk of life-threatening complications.
The Government's pledge to vaccinate all under-fives against swine flu this month was also mired in chaos as GPs pulled out of the scheme in a row over cash.
Just 20 per cent of all cases diagnosed by the National Pandemic Flu Service
were actually cases of swine flu, HPA scientists found. Everyone diagnosed by
the service was given vouchers to get Tamiflu.
It means that more than 800,000 of the 1million packets of Tamiflu - which cost around £15 each - were given out needlessly.
In the busiest week 40,000 doses of Tamiflu were dished out - yet now it would appear that 95 per cent - 36,000 packets - should not have been.
It could also mean that millions of working days were lost by people taking time off claiming to have been hit by the pandemic.
Businesses say the mistakes have lost them more than £500million after
thousands took the opportunity to take swine flu 'sickies'.
This will also raise concerns that the system could have encouraged the virus to become resistant to Tamiflu.
Critics have attacked ministers for handing out the drug in such huge quantities at the beginning of the outbreak, when it was feared that up to 65,000 may die.
Now the expected death toll has been revised to less than 1,000 - with 270 having died so far, of whom 80 per cent had other illnesses or underlying conditions.
Scientists warned in the summer that handing out the antiviral to healthy people could be a bad move, because a more resistant form of the virus could be dangerous in those with underlying health problems which makes them more likely to die from the disease.
Two weeks ago it emerged that the first case of Tamiflu-resistant swine flu being passed from person to person had occurred in Wales.
The Government's swine flu call centres, staffed by unqualified students and temps, were set up to take the strain off GPs' surgeries.
People with suspected swine flu were told to ring the helpline or a related internet site to get the antiviral rather than visit their doctors. The requirement to get a sick note from the GP was waived.
Similar tests of patients diagnosed by GPs found half of their patients were also misdiagnosed.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said the potential danger to misdiagnosed patients is 'seriously concerning'.
'Ministers had years to prepare for such an outbreak but completely failed to put in place an effective flu-line service,' he added.
And Mark Wallace, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'If call centres were so
inaccurate, then it suggests this was more about PR than medical treatment. In
effect, this was a very expensive press release.'
A Department of Health spokesman insisted the 'best scientific advice' states Tamiflu should still be taken as soon as possible. 'To suggest otherwise is potentially dangerous,' he added.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1234135/Just-diagnosed-swine-flu-hotline-actually-disease.html#ixzz0ZI8jTNO7