Pressue on Shona Robison to apologise over handling of flu surge


The Scottish Government has been accused of failing to act on warnings of a flu crisis this winter amid claims that Scotland has the highest death rates in the UK.

Health Secretary Shona Robison is facing calls to apologise for her handling of the crisis ahead of a visit to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to thank NHS staff for their efforts.

Cases of flu have more than doubled compared to the same time last year, leaving A&E departments struggling to cope. Some hospitals have postponed non-urgent operations in January and redeployed backroom staff to cleaning duties as they struggle to cope.

The Tories have pointed to low levels of vaccine uptake, but ministers insist rates are broadly in line with last year.

There are also concerns that the vaccines available to Scots this winter have had a limited effect against the current strains of flu.

It follows reports at the weekend which indicate Scotland has suffered greater flu-related deaths than elsewhere in the UK.

Euronomo, the European monitor which sets out mortality rates in 20 countries, indicates that Scotland experienced the highest level of excess death rates for the final two weeks of 2017, according to the Sunday Times. Public Health England also highlights excess mortality in Scotland, but not in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This whole sorry episode is yet more evidence of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.

“Shona Robison should apologise immediately for her mishandling of this crisis.

“They knew they had a problem – and, once again, were found asleep at the wheel. It is a disgrace.”

Provisional figures for this year suggest that uptake in key groups is no higher than last year.

Mr Briggs added: “Despite our repeated calls for action, they failed to act in time to protect more people, and support our NHS.

“Instead, all we get are excuses and belated attempts to act.”

But a spokesman for the Health Secretary insisted 
that the vaccination uptake is higher among key groups
 such as pregnant women, while Scotland has also seen much higher uptake than England for childhood vaccination.

“The Tories’ claims are wrong – and they should apologise for trying to politicise an issue like this,” he said.

Ms Robison insisted at the weekend that the flu strains covered by the current Scots vaccine programme are determined by World Health Organisation advice and appealed for more Scots to get the jab.

“The flu vaccine offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus circulating this year and has an excellent safety record,” the Health Secretary added.

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