Increase in norovirus hospitalisations shows early winter pressures

NHS figures have shown that the number of patients in hospital with norovirus last week was almost triple the number during the same period last winter.

The data shows that an average of 351 people were in hospital with diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms every day last week compared to 126 in the same week last year. There were also 13 children with the virus in hospital each day, compared to an average of just three for the same period in 2022.

The figures reveal that the NHS is already seeing high demand in hospitals and winter pressures are already showing.

There are almost 1,500 more beds open now (100,701) compared to the same week last year (99,243), but adult bed occupancy remains high at 95.3 per cent with over 1,200 more patients in adult general and acute beds last week compared to the end of November 2022 (90,144 vs 88,902).

There were 419,676 calls to the NHS 111 service last week, similar to 423,969 the same week last year. However, almost twice the proportion of calls answered were answered within a minute (from 36 per cent to 67 per cent).

Last week, there was an average of 12,654 beds each day occupied by patients who were ready for discharge, taking up one in seven of all occupied adult general and acute beds (90,144).

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “We all know somebody who has had some kind of nasty winter virus in the last few weeks and today’s data shows this is starting to trickle through to hospital admissions, with a much higher volume of norovirus cases compared to last year, and the continued impact of infections like flu and RSV in children on hospital capacity – all likely to be exacerbated by this week’s cold weather.

“The measures we set out in our urgent and emergency care recovery plan and winter preparations earlier this year are clearly having an impact, and thanks to the incredibly hard work of staff there has been a significant reduction in ambulance handover delays despite higher demand, almost twice the number of 111 calls being answered in a minute, and almost 1,500 more general and acute hospital beds open compared to the same time last year.

“However, it is clear that even before we enter December the demand on hospitals and staff is high, with more than 1,200 extra patients in hospital compared to last year,  and we know that is likely to grow considerably before Christmas. So as ever, the public can also play their part by using services in the usual way – by calling 999 in an emergency and using NHS 111 for other health conditions – and by getting their Covid and flu jabs if eligible.”