David Cameron has warned that lessons must be learned from Britain’s recent flu vaccine shortage as the country faces “significant outbreaks” for years to come.
Some GP surgeries have had to turn away vulnerable people recently after the death toll from flu rose to 50 since the start of October.
Although they do not protect against all the latest flu strains, stocks of last year’s swine flu vaccine are to be used to plug shortages in this year’s vaccination programme.
The prime minister, who revealed he had not had a jab this year, denied the problems were caused by spending cuts and insisted that the government had followed expert advice.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Doctors did order something like 14 million doses of vaccine. Because of very heavy usage there are some shortages in some places,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It is very important that we learn the lessons from this.
“One of the lessons is that it looks likely that, because of the prevalence of swine flu and other strains, we might have quite significant outbreaks in future years and we need to look at the way we order vaccinations and whether more needs to be done.
“We have followed at every turn what the joint committee (on vaccinations and immunisations) has said. It is important you listen to the experts and make sure you are trying to get the vaccine to the people who need it.”
Mr Cameron added: “This is nothing to do with cuts. The NHS is not having cuts.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The Department of Health each year routinely assesses performance over the flu season in order to provide the NHS with the best possible guidance for the following season.
“We have already said that we are reviewing specifically the need for central procurement of vaccines. This review will report in due course.”