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Flu season adds pressure to primary and acute care sectors as service demand soars

02 February 2023
Volume 34 · Issue 2


Sarah Jane Palmer looks at how flu has impacted on primary care this winter

Flu season is upon us and has so far been one of the worst in recent history, at a time when the NHS is struggling to cope with huge waiting lists and service demands. NHS England (2022) reported that the number of patients with flu in hospital had increased by two-thirds in one week in December. At the peak of the flu outbreak, there were 1939 flu cases in England's hospitals daily, up from 1162 cases a day in the previous week. Of those with flu, an increasing number were admitted to intensive care; with numbers up by more than 70% in a week to 149 admissions a day. NHS England (2022) also reported that when compared with the previous year, statistics showed a stark contrast in admission numbers – late 2021 had just two patients a day in critical care with flu, and 32 in general and acute beds in the week ending 19 December. GP surgeries were also affected, with increasing demand for appointments from those with respiratory symptoms. Reflecting this trend of increasing cases and service demands, are the data that also recorded a huge amount of calls to the 111 service. There were 721 301 calls a week, up by about 20 000 on the week before, and up by 60% when compared with the previous year, which saw 452 644 calls in the week ending 19 December (NHS England, 2022).

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