Swine flu killed 457 people and cost £1.24 billion official figures show
The swine flu pandemic cost the UK 457 lives and more than £1.24 billion, the official report into the outbreak has revealed.
Dame Deirdre Hine, a former chief medical officer for Wales who carried out the review, said that the death toll could have been much higher but for the swift response and mild nature of the disease.
She denied the contingency plans amounted to an overreaction and said that it was important that the relative success did not make us complacent.
She concluded that the UK’s response to last year’s outbreak was “proportionate and effective”.
“It is imperative that the experience of 2009 doesn’t lead to complacency,” she said. “It is a bit like childbirth – when it’s all over, you forget quite how serious and how difficult it all was.
“The threat of a flu pandemic remains very high. Both the successes and the lessons from this pandemic should inform policy and planning for the next one because there will be a next one, and the next one might be more severe.
“If the UK government had not responded to the unexpected threat. Had it turned out to be more severe then we would have been having a very different press conference today.”
She highlighted the lack of flexibility in the contracts signed by the Government for vaccines against the H1N1 virus, meaning that Britain was left with many doses it did not need, many of which were donated to the Third World.
There were 457 reported and confirmed swine flu-related deaths across the UK between the outbreak in April last year and March this year.
Figures in the report show that Britain spent £654 million preparing for a possible flu pandemic, and £587 million responding to the H1N1 outbreak – a total of £1.24 billion.
This includes £1.01 billion on drugs, among them antivirals, doses of vaccine and antibiotics.
The report said there was a lack of flexibility once the Department of Health (DoH) signed contracts for swine flu vaccine with drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Baxter.
Baxter agreed to a “break clause” allowing the Government to cancel its order for some of the doses but GSK refused.
The report noted that the DoH eventually agreed to take 35 million doses of the vaccine from GSK.
“I think we have got to set these figures, which seem enormous, against the potential for saving lives,” she said.
“It is fairly clear, although we can’t actually identify the number, that there probably were lives saved of very young people, young children and so on. These are extremely valuable lives.”
Tags: DoH, H1N1, NHS Deaths, pandemic, swine flu