Flu may overwhelm U.K. health system

A nurse prepare the doses of H1N1 vaccine.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Over in Britain, a mass vaccination against the swine flu begins today. About 11 million people will get inoculated under the first phase of the program. The British government says it has enough vaccine. The fear is this flu could overwhelm the country's state-run health service. From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: Vaccine supplies may be plentiful and the virus may be proving much less lethal than feared. But there is a worrying trend. And it could have a big impact on Britain's state-run health system.

The number of new swine flu cases doubled here last week. The number of victims admitted into intensive care also shot up.

Andrew Lansley is a Conservative member of parliament, and opposition spokesman on health.

Andrew LANSLEY: In Britain we start from a position where we have relatively few intensive-care beds compared with our population, compared to other countries. And those are already hard pressed.

The government says it will double the number of ICU beds to 4,000. But given current trends, there could be 5,000 swine flu victims needing specialized care in the coming months. The NHS could face its toughest winter.

A potential embarrassment for some supporters of health-care reform in the U.S. They have been pointing to the NHS as a model system.

In London this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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