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Government pig flu spotter pulls a sickie

Online system down since Sunday

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The government's online symptom checker for swine flu symptoms has been unavailable all day, and it has emerged that government plans for a national flu hotline have been delayed.

Documents obtained by the Liberal Democrats reveal that FluLine was delayed by Treasury footdragging.

The Treasury was expected to sign off the spending in June 2008 but did not do so until December. This failure meant the government had to set up a temporary solution to deal with swine flu.

And it is that system which is failing today - NHS Direct was running an online symptom checker, but it has been down since Sunday.

A Department of Health spokesman told us at 11.30 this morning that it was being fixed and would be working soon, but at 15.30 it remains unavailable. There is other information available on the site, but clicking on the front page link to the symptom checker will take you on a circular journey which ends back on the front page.

LibDem shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said: “Because of Whitehall infighting we are seeing GPs having to cope with a large number of calls that should have been directed to a national FluLine. It is incredibly frustrating that the national flu strategy is inevitably being undermined because this central plank is not in place.

“Not only is this putting an additional burden on GPs, but the Government is having to use tax-payers’ money to cover the cost of setting up an interim service which should not have been necessary in the first place."

The government response suffered more embarrassment at the weekend when it appeared different departments were offering concerned pregnant women differing advice on how to avoid or deal with the disease. ®

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