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The Government's scrapping of the national flu campaign in 2010 led to huge falls in vaccination levels in some areas, Labour reveals today.
The news comes just days after a major report from the former Chief Medical Officer found that the Government's failure to prepare properly for the 2010/11 flu season may have led to preventable deaths.
A detailed breakdown of Department of Health figures shows wide variation in influenza vaccine take-up in the winter of 2010-11, the year after the swine flu pandemic.
In the absence of a national awareness campaign, 107 of England's Primary Care Trusts experienced a fall in the percentage of 'at risk' patients aged under 65 taking up the vaccination compared to the previous winter. But these figures cover wide variation, including a shocking 25% fall in Havering.
The 10 PCTs witnessing the biggest falls between the two flu seasons for 'at risk' patients were:
Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, said:
"Andrew Lansley's decision to scrap the winter flu campaign just one year after a global flu pandemic was an early illustration of his reckless approach to the running of our health service.
"The Health Secretary ignored the advice of public health experts and these figures reveal the consequences on the ground of his arrogance and inability to listen.
"The Government's failure to run a proper national campaign was a false economy. It created wide variation and put the public at greater risk with fewer vulnerable patients in two thirds of England taking up the flu vaccine.
"This is another appalling example of the sheer incompetence of this Government, taking knee-jerk decisions without fully thinking through the consequences. Sadly, in this case, the price paid by patients and the public was high, with preventable illness and even death.
"The Health Secretary must learn the lessons from this. He must respond to Sir Liam's review, acknowledge his mistakes and put in place proper national arrangements to protect the public in the coming winter flu season."