Infectious disease is a significant cause
of human illness and death. It leads to economic downturns and
contributes to social and political instability. Every year worldwide
fifteen million people die from an infection. The emergence of
infections, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS),
create wide-spread anxiety and affects global travel and trade.
It is widely feared that a global outbreak of a new strain of
influenza could result in a repeat experience of 1918 when seventy
million people died across the world.
Infectious disease services in England
(the devolved administrations have separate arrangements), whilst
better than those found in many countries, suffer from problems.
The services expected to protect the population from both common
and more unusual infection are under-resourced and over-stretched.
If this country were to experience a major outbreak of an infection
the services may not be able to cope: there is not enough surge
we recommend that the Government recognises
and addresses the fact that, although England has not experienced
major epidemics of infection in recent years, this owes as much
to good fortune as to good management. Without improvements
we fear that this country will suffer from major epidemics and
will continue to see infectious disease take its toll in economic
terms, in suffering and in lives.
Arrangements for formal
collaboration are poor and lines of accountability unclear.
Collaboration is difficult: many organisations
and health professionals are involved in fighting infection.
We call on the Minister for Public Health
to improve cross-departmental working on infection and to ensure
that all relevant organisations understand their roles and responsibilities.
We also recommend that the Government create a number of "infection
centres". These would develop collaborative working, create
a critical mass of expertise and provide a setting for high quality
research and training in all aspects of infectious disease.
Committed and competent health professionals
work hard to control and prevent infection, yet they are insufficiently
supported. We recognise that infectious disease cannot be completely
overcome, but improvements should be made in order to ensure that
the response as is as effective as possible. In particular there
is a need to:
· Improve collaborative relationships
across the services
· Ensure there are sufficient
well-trained health professionals
ways of electronic capture, analysis and dissemination of information
about infection across relevant organisations
· Establish clear evidence-based
priorities for, and facilitate development of vaccines and diagnostic
· Fund research to provide
an evidence base for improving diagnosis, treatment, prevention
and control of infection
· Secure supplies of vaccines
in case of epidemics
clear advice and information to the public
International collaboration is an essential
component of effective services. Global partnerships provide early
warning of possible epidemics. We believe that the Government
should further facilitate international collaboration by making
available resources so that infectious disease experts can be
placed on short-term secondments with the WHO and similar bodies.