Swine flu panic 'may overwhelm NHS'
Public panic over swine flu could put unnecessary pressure on the NHS, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has warned.
He told the Observer that people should be reassured that the Government's response has been well planned.
He said: "It is very important for everybody to keep a sense of perspective. It has been a mild virus in the vast majority of cases, with relatively mild symptoms from which people recover fully fairly quickly."
He went on: "If people are made unnecessarily anxious, it makes the lives of NHS professionals, who are already under enormous pressure, far more difficult as people become unduly worried."
He also said swine flu victims are getting Tamiflu, "quickly and conveniently" using the new National Pandemic Flu Service website and phoneline.
More than 58,000 assessments were made by the service on Thursday - its first day of operation - 89% of which were completed on the internet, and 5,584 courses of the anti-viral drugs were collected.
Mr Burnham said: "These figures show that, despite an unprecedented demand for the National Pandemic Flu Service, the phoneline and website are running well, illustrating once again how wonderfully resilient the NHS and its healthcare professionals are.
"People in need of antivirals are able to get them quickly and conveniently using the new service and it is freeing up GPs to look after patients in risk groups as well as those with other illnesses."
His comments came following claims by experts from the University of Cambridge, the Intensive Care Society and St George's Healthcare NHS Trust in London that English hospitals might be unable to cope with the amount of people, especially children, affected by the pandemic.
The Government insisted that it can cancel non-emergency operations to increase the number of beds available, but the experts said even this would not meet demand.