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Winter virus cases ‘creeping up’, warn A&E doctors

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The number of flu patients in hospital has increased by more than half in a week  

Frontline doctors have sounded the alarm over the rising pressure on emergency departments in hospitals across the country as winter virus cases are “creeping up”.

An average of 234 people were in hospital with flu every day last week, a 53 per cent increase compared to the week before, according to new NHS data.

Hospital norovirus cases increased by 15 per cent last week, with an average 406 people hospitalised each day, a 28 per cent increase from the same week last year.

Measures to stop the spread of norovirus to other patients led to the closure of an average of 92 beds were closed each day last week.

NHS data showed that an average of 146 children were in hospital each day with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the week to 3 December, up by 11 per cent from the previous week (131), as well as the same week last year.

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.”

She warned of the possibility of more winter virus cases, with some leading to hospital admissions, “as we experience more spells of cold weather and people gathering indoors for festive events and end of year celebrations.”

Richard Jennings, group chief medical officer, St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group, said they are particularly seeing an increase in people coming to their emergency departments with norovirus and flu.

As with all other hospitals across the country, Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is also experiencing “extremely high demand” for emergency care services.

The trust’s Medical Director, Dr Peter Williams said: “Infection rates in the local community for illnesses such as diarrhoea and vomiting are on the rise, with winter respiratory viruses including flu and Covid infections also remaining prevalent.

“Inevitably, the increase in people seeking healthcare puts pressure on our hospitals and causes delays for those attending or requiring admission through Emergency Departments.”

Dom Hardy, Chief Operating Officer, for Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, also informed that their emergency department has been seeing “unprecedented levels of demand” and their records for A&E attendances having been broken “multiple times” over the past year.

The A&E doctors have appealed to the public to support their local NHS by getting vaccinated against flu and covid, if eligible, and using NHS 111 when it’s less urgent.

 

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