Doctors warn of rising pressure from winter viruses

Doctors are warning that winter virus cases are "creeping up" along with pressure on energy departments.

Recent NHS data has shown that the number of flu patients in hospital is up more than half in a week.

The figures show that an average of 234 people were in hospital with flu every day last week, up 53% on the week before.

Hospital norovirus cases are also continuing to rise, with with hospital cases up 15% on the previous week to an average 406 people each day – a 28 per cent increase on the same week last year.

RSV cases are also increasing, with data showing in the week to 3 December that an average of 146 children were in hospital each day with the virus, up 11% on both last year and the previous week (131).

There were 358,797 calls answered by the NHS 111 service last week, which is 14 per cent more than the 315,788 in the same week last year. However, despite the increase in calls, more than twice the proportion of calls answered last week were answered within a minute (from 32% to 69%).

Professor Julian Redhead, NHS England’s national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, said: “This latest data will come as no surprise to those of us working on the frontline, who are seeing the number of people coming to emergency departments and patients in hospital with viruses like flu, RSV, and norovirus creeping up, and continued Covid pressure.

“The measures we set out in our urgent and emergency care recovery plan and winter preparations earlier this year are having an impact, with more than twice the number of NHS 111 calls being answered within a minute, and almost 1,400 more general and acute hospital beds open compared to the same time last year.

“Demand on hospitals and staff remains high, and as we experience more spells of cold weather and people gathering indoors for festive events and end of year celebrations, we expect to see a continued increase in winter viruses spreading in the community and in some cases, this will lead to hospital admissions.

“And now we are also preparing to mitigate the impact of the latest strikes this Christmas, once more prioritising urgent and emergency care – including emergency surgery – to protect patient safety and ensure those in life-saving emergencies can receive the best possible care. So the public can continue to play their part by using NHS services in the usual way and calling 999 in an emergency and using NHS 111 for other health conditions, and by getting their flu and Covid jabs if eligible.”