By Daniel Martin
The NHS is being forced to cut services because of the huge costs of the swine flu scare that proved unfounded.
A survey has found that as many as one in six health trusts may have to slash services – or already have done so – to recoup costs.
The cuts required to pay for swine flu preparations are on top of the cuts needed after the election as the NHS adjusts to a post-credit crunch world.
And, for the first time, it has emerged that the average cost of the swine flu scare to primary care trusts was £340,000 – enough to pay the salaries of 17 nurses.
The huge amounts were spent on setting up antiviral collection points, storing and distributing vaccines, staff vaccination sessions and advertising to encourage people to have the jab.
The news comes just a month after ministers revealed that up to £300million of taxpayers’ money was wasted on swine flu jabs that were never needed.
The Government ordered 90million doses of a vaccine last year as panic over the illness gripped the country – but when the pandemic failed to materialise, it soon became clear the order was far too large.
At the height of the scare, the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said as many as 65,000 people could die from the disease. In fact, the toll has been less than 500 – a fraction of the number who died from ordinary flu.
The survey of 107 Primary Care Trusts in GP magazine – which submitted a Freedom of Information request – has laid bare the full cost to local health services.
Five out of 31 PCTs which gave full details to the magazine said they had made cuts or were considering them, while others said they had used contingency funds to meet costs. None of the PCTs would say where the axe would fall.
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