An external chair has been appointed to the government's Scientific Advisory Group on Pandemic Influenza (SAG) as part of plans to make the group more flexible and independent.
Professor Sir Gordon Duff has been announced as the new SAG chair. Professor Duff is Florey Professor of Molecular Medicine at Sheffield University, as well as being the Chair of Commission on Human Medicines and the Chair of the National Biological Standards Board.
The Department of Health (DH) established the SAG to advise on the scientific evidence base for health-related pandemic influenza policies.
The DH has said: "Experts around the world share the view that a global pandemic of influenza could emerge and could cause millions of deaths. It is not possible to predict when this will occur.
"In the UK alone, a pandemic could affect 25–50% of the population and cause up to 750,000 deaths. It is therefore imperative that the UK has robust preparations for an influenza pandemic in place."
Recruitment of an independent chair is part of the revision that the SAG is currently undergoing. In a further change, membership of the SAG is being extended to include a wider range of scientific disciplines.
The revised SAG will act as an information network for the government to ensure that it is informed of important developments in pandemic influenza related sciences, which could affect government policy.
The SAG will continue to include its current sub-group on systematic modelling of the impact of a pandemic and the effect of interventions. This group brings together internationally respected experts in the area who represent different modelling approaches to maximise confidence in the results.