In the week since my last report on the situation in the UK, conditions have worsened considerably. Some examples:
From The Mirror, January 2, 2011:
Dr Kevin Morris, of the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, said: “We are virtually in a situation where there isn’t a single paediatric intensive care bed left in the country. This is the worst crisis within living memory.”
About one in five of the 305 child intensive care hospital beds is now taken up with critically ill youngsters with suspected swine flu. Last night there were just 15 left.
The system could reach breaking point next week as a boom in cases of both seasonal flu and swine flu in children is expected.
Meanwhile, some surgeries and pharmacies warned yesterday they have run out of the swine flu vaccine and Tamiflu medicine.
From The Express, January 2, 2011:
THE NHS was heading for crisis last night with getting on for half the country’s intensive care beds occupied by swine flu victims.
Already as many as 800 of the 1,900 intensive care beds in England are being used to treat patients with the H1N1 swine flu virus.
One of the worst affected areas is in children’s emergency services with very sick youngsters having to be transported hundreds of miles for an intensive care bed.
Given these obviously dire circumstances, you might think the British government would be doing everything in its power to stem the spread of this lethal disease.
But you’d be wrong.
Vaccination is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent infection. The British government had ample time and resources to obtain enough vaccine for their entire population. However, they have, instead, chosen to vaccinate even fewer people than last year. A recent decision to refuse to vaccinate children under five years old despite the crisis situation has no scientific basis whatsoever. Instead, it is likely driven by their poor planning and inadequate supplies. Claims by the Department of Health that they still have some vaccine left is mere sophistry. They have some left because they have carefully titrated their current recommendations on who should get vaccine based on available supplies. Were they to recommend that everyone who could benefit from vaccination get it, the supplies would be immediately exhausted.
In the absence of adequate supplies of vaccine, the next obvious step would be to keep the schools closed because these are well known incubators for viral dissemination. Incredibly, the Department of Health shows less sense than the average English Mum (The Daily Mail, January 1, 2011:
One mother wrote on internet forum Mumsnet: ‘If the flu gets a lot worse than it is now, keeping some kids off is something that could make a lot of sense.’
Another agreed, saying: ‘It may be a 14-day curfew is better because isolation may be the key to reducing mass infections.’ However, the Department of Health said the NHS can cope and urged children to return to schools and nurseries.
This recommendation by the Department of Health is the equivalent of throwing fuel directly on a fire. The consequences are completely predicatable: a huge surge in cases at at a time when the NHS is already on the verge of collapse.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is giving Prime Minister Cameron dreadful advice. If the Prime Minister continues to take it, his government will go down in history as one of the most reckless in British history.