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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, just over 8 million doses of flu vaccination were made available to the NHS. We then encouraged GPs to advise members of the public who were particularly susceptible to flu to receive those vaccinations. In the high risk group--those aged 75 and over--44 per cent received flu vaccinations. Whether or not one wishes the whole country to be flu vaccinated is a much wider issue and one on which we shall clearly need to take advice. We need to be careful before taking the view that a panacea for the pressures at this time is complete vaccination across all groups in the population.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I apologise for asking a question without notice requiring figures which the Minister's brief may not include. However, in order to make it possible to evaluate his earlier answer, can he say what is the highest number of beds occupied in the National Health Service by patients diagnosed as
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, the Minister has just shown that he is formidably well briefed. Will he please lecture the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on how to be well briefed as opposed to being badly briefed?
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, what is the net cost to the taxpayer of giving a working person a flu jab, after they have paid the prescription charge? Also, what is the cost to the national economy of somebody being off work for five days? What implication is there in that comparison?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, vaccines given through the NHS are given free of charge. My understanding is that the vaccine costs around £4 a dose. The other questions will need further consideration.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, what advice is the Minister giving to hospitals as to the good sense of ensuring that all their employees are vaccinated against flu? Is it not the case that a number of beds have been "lost" because there are not the nurses to staff them, they themselves being ill?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. We allowed NHS trusts to offer vaccinations to NHS staff. I am not entirely sure of the number who took up the offer. Clearly, we shall want to evaluate that information to see what effect it had on the general level of staffing within a particular hospital. It is worth making the point that influenza is not the only illness that has struck staff during the past few weeks. I am keen to share with noble Lords the point I made earlier; namely, that while the flu vaccine is one element in an approach which tries
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, if I may, I return to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as the Question refers to the flu epidemic. Perhaps my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the present rate of new, reported cases is 235 per 100,000 whereas an epidemic constitutes 400 cases per 100,000. If those figures are correct, we do not have an epidemic. Does not my noble friend agree that these loose terms cause panic and problems among the general public and for the medical profession? In future can we use these terms less loosely?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that my noble friend refers to the formal definition of a flu epidemic which is 400 new patients per 100,000. In the latest week for which I have statistics the figure was 236 per 100,000. I believe that that could be termed in the range of a modest epidemic.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Let us start with the word "modest" as a baseline. In addition, we must consider the advice which the health service has given people; namely, to call their doctor only if necessary and to stay at home. Further, we have encouraged community pharmacists to offer advice rather than patients having necessarily to visit their general practitioner. Thousands of people have contacted NHS Direct every week. That service has permitted people to receive advice without having to visit their GP. It seems clear that the definition in terms of numbers of people consulting their GP is no longer satisfactory to describe what has been happening in the NHS. Anyone who has talked to people working on the front line in the health service will know that the pressure on them has been enormous.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, what has clearly emerged over the past few weeks is that the health service has been under pressure. There is no question about that. However, we should also pay tribute to the remarkable way in which people in the NHS--doctors, nurses, ambulance crews and other
Lord Ackner: My Lords, what is the rate of success of the flu jab? I raise this question because years ago I used to advise GPs on their biannual application for increased pay. A consultation took place every January. On one occasion I asked why only three rather than 12 doctors were present. I was told that they were down with flu. I asked, "Don't any of you chaps get injected?" They replied, "We're not going to have some dirty great needle stuck into our arms." What is the rate of success of flu jabs?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot give the precise percentage figure as regards the success rate of the flu vaccination. I suspect that it is difficult to give precise figures. Certainly, I believe that many members of the public have found it advantageous to be given the flu vaccination. Therefore the Government have encouraged the health service to give vaccinations to members of staff and to ensure that those vulnerable members of the public who need to receive the flu vaccination actually receive it.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to trustees and persons having the investment powers of trustees; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to copyright and trade marks; to impose a duty not to imitate features of goods or services; and to extend the powers of certain courts to make orders for preserving evidence. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.
Clauses 1 to 16, Schedule 1, Clauses 17 to 27, Schedule 2, Clauses 28 to 33, Clauses 66 and 67, Clauses 34 to 40, Schedule 3, Clauses 41 to 55, Clauses 62 and 63, Clauses 56 to 61, Clauses 64 and 65, Clauses 68 to 71, Schedules 4 and 5, Clauses 72 and 73.--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)