Birmingham has only three official collection points for swine flu medication despite being one of the main hotspots in the country for the H1N1 virus, it emerged.
Health watchdogs are mystified at huge regional variations in drug collection points from city to city.
Although Birmingham had one of the first outbreaks in the country and thousands of the one million population of the city have been affected, there is only one collection point for each of the north and east of the city, innercity Birmingham and south of the city.
But two pick-up points for Tamiflu have been authorised in the smaller town of Walsall, ten in Stoke on Trent, and even as many as 51 in Bristol and 43 in West Kent.
Collection points are a vital part of the new National Flu Service, which enables patients to be assessed over the phone or web and gives them an authorisation code to pick up antivirals from an official site.
Stephen O’Brien, Conservative shadow health minister, has criticised the unruly way swine flu treatment is being managed with nationally ten Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) having more than 30 collection points for Tamiflu, and said: “There is no clear link between the number of cases of swine flu in an area and the number of collection points.
“These figures raise further questions about the Government’s handling of swine flu.
“It is understandable that the number of collection points in each PCT will vary according to how rural an area is and how many cases of swine flu there are locally. However, the number of collection points available in many areas still seems surprisingly low.
“If there are areas with too few collection points, then the Government must take urgent action to open more so that people suffering from swine flu can get the antivirals they need.”
A Birmingham East and North PCT spokeswoman said its collection centre in Stechford was seeing about 200 people a day and the process was working smoothly.
“The trust is now looking into setting up a second antiviral collection point in the coming days in a different part of the patch,” she added.
“In addition to this, GPs in the area can still prescribe antiviral medication which patients can collect from three pharmacies.”
South Staffordshire PCT said it had now opened six points for antiviral medication including one in Lichfield.
There is only one collection point in each of Solihull, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.