Wednesday 17 July 2024
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Flu cases up by half in a week as NHS 111 answers 410,000 calls

Flu cases in hospital jumped up by almost half (47%) last week, as staff in NHS 111 answered a near record number of calls.

New figures for the week leading up to New Year’s Day, showed there were 5,105 patients with flu in general and acute hospital beds, up from 3,479 the previous week.

The weekly performance statistics, published today, also show that the number of patients in critical care beds with flu increased by more than a quarter (26%) with 336 compared with 267 the previous week.

In the same week last year, there were 38 flu cases in general and acute beds and two in critical care beds.

The number of patients with COVID in hospitals rose by almost 1,200 compared to the previous week, with an average of 9,390 patients in hospitals with COVID every day.

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Amid levels of demand not seen since the start of the COVID pandemic, NHS 111 answered the second-highest number of calls ever in a week, with 410,618 calls answered, up from 365,258 last week and 382,021 last year.

Hospital bed occupancy remains high, with more than 9 in 10 beds (93%) occupied and almost 13,000 (12,809) beds a day taken up by patients who were medically fit to be discharged – up almost a third (30%) on last year (9,858).

Despite unprecedented pressure and demand on services, the NHS planned extensively for winter, recruiting hundreds of extra 111 and 999 call handlers and establishing around-the-clock system control centres in every area to manage demand as effectively as possible.

Dozens of acute respiratory infection hubs and community falls response services have also been established to ease pressure on accident and emergency departments.

England’s top doctor is also calling for eligible groups to get vaccinated saying it’s not too late to get a vaccine, with over 375,000 vaccine appointments available next week.

NHS National Medical Director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said:

“We knew this winter would be one of the most difficult in the history of the NHS and I want to thank the staff for all their hard work in caring for and treating so many patients while dealing with record demand on services, including the enormous pressure from flu and COVID.

“The plans we announced last autumn will help ensure we are in the best place possible to provide care for patients at this incredibly challenging time, with extra call handlers in place, community services established to help keep people out of hospital where possible and we’re also continuing to make good progress to put the equivalent of 7,000 extra beds in place by March.

“It remains vital that people make the most of services like 111 online and as ever, only use 999 in an emergency, and it’s also crucial that those who are eligible come forward for flu and COVID vaccines as soon as possible”.

•  Stay off work and school and wear face masks – advice issued amid high levels of flu, Covid and scarlet fever

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