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Britain could face a high increase in flu cases this winter which could make it harder for hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes to cope, the chief executive of NHS England has said.
Simon Stevens told the NHS Expo that the signs from Australia and New Zealand are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals have struggled to cope, raising concerns that Britain may experience the same in the coming months.
The southern hemisphere has experienced its worst flu season in many years this year, and previous experience suggests Britain may be hit by the same strain this winter.
Stevens said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is now reviewing the efficacy of the flu vaccine used in Australia and New Zealand. The NHS’s own campaign is due to start within weeks.
Steven told NHS bosses to do everything they could to ensure that the health service is as well-prepared as possible to deal with an influx of people who have fallen ill, and put the NHS on high alert.
Stevens said: “or the next three, four, five months the top priority for every leader, every part of the NHS, is ensuring that the NHS goes into winter in a strong a position as possible.
“We know we’re going to have more hospital beds open, we know we are better prepared, but we also know that the pressures are going to be real. We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.
“The evidence is we are likely to have a more pressurised flu season this year.”