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Swine flu hotline not being taken up outside England

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Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be joining the swine flu hotline being set up by the NHS in England, because the devolved governments insist their normal health services are able to cope with the outbreak.

The National Pandemic Flu Service will allow patients to receive the anti-flu drug Tamiflu without seeing a doctor, once they answer a series of questions either over the phone or online.

The service is expected to be operational by the end of next week, but it will only be available to people in England.

Health departments in the devolved countries will be able to join the flu service at a later date if needed.

Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said a separate Scottish flu response hotline had been set up at the beginning of June, and it was currently coping well with around 500 calls a day.

Welsh health minister Edwina Hart said: ‘We will continue to focus on providing care and support to people through existing services that they are more familiar with and comfortable with using for as long as possible.’

Northern Ireland health minister Michael McGimpsey, said: ‘Given the current numbers of flu consultations in Northern Ireland, we feel the current arrangements remain the best way to get treatment to all those who need it as quickly as possible.’

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