Public concern over swine flu has swamped the Healthline advice call centre and St John's is being roped in to help out, Health Minister Tony Ryall said today.

He told Parliament's health select committee that Healthline was overstretched.

"We have got significant pressure on the 0800 Healthline service. What we know is they are receiving double the calls that they normally receive, with a real spike after the 6 o'clock news," Mr Ryall said.

Steps were being taken to reduce the pressure.

A regional public health unit was helping with the overflow of calls and from tomorrow St John's call centres would also be helping.

Support would also be given to GPs to get more information to the public.

The health ministry's website was also being upgraded as most callers were just seeking information or had general concerns and they could be referred to this site for assistance.

Mr Ryall repeated his belief that it was "inevitable" that the health system would have to give up trying to contain swine flu and just try to reduce the impact.

The health system was already under pressure trying to contain the disease in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

It was hoped to delay the spread of the disease as long as possible in order to reduce pressure on hospitals trying to cope with the regular winter flu season.

Mr Ryall said the ministry was stepping up advertising mainly around the "helping not to spread the flu" message.

"Normally we would see about 31,000 medical admissions to hospitals a month during winter. Officials think we could end up with another 4000 or so if the swine flu peak matches the winter peak," he said.

"That is why we are working assiduously to try and prevent that from happening."

There were currently 123 known cases in New Zealand and 2000 in Australia with most in Victoria,

"But they have stopped counting there (Victoria) now," Mr Ryall said.

- NZPA