Pressure from flu on the NHS continues to grow with cases in hospital now more than seven times higher than last month, the latest figures show.
New data out today shows there were 3,746 patients a day in hospital with flu last week, up from 520 a month ago (w/e 27 Nov). Of those in hospital last week, 267 were in critical care beds.
As viruses re-circulate after a hiatus during the pandemic the NHS has continued to see hospital cases grow week on week, up almost 80% in seven days (from 2,088 w/e 18 Dec).
This time last year (w/e 26 Dec 2021), there were only 34 patients in hospital with flu, two of whom were in in critical care.
NHS staff have also been impacted by the spread of viruses this winter, with Covid absences each day up almost half on last month, from 5,448 to 8,029.
The total number of staff off sick is up a fifth on the end of November, from 52,556 to 63,296 a day.
Bed occupancy remains particularly high, with more than nine in 10 beds filled (over 93%) compared to 86% for the same period last year.
Hospital capacity continues to be impacted by delayed discharges, with 12,313 beds a day taken up by patients who no longer met the criteria to reside – but as NHS staff pulled out all the stops to ensure as many patients as possible were able to spend Christmas with loved ones at home – this was the lowest figure since August 2022.
Staff also went over and above to mitigate the impact of industrial action on Thursday 21 December, with hours lost to ambulance handover delays that day at their lowest level for this winter.
Pressure on the 111 service also remained high, with nearly 600,000 calls (599,622) last week – up more than two thirds from 365,338 this time last year.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said:
“Sadly, these latest flu numbers show our fears of a ‘twindemic’ have been realised, with cases up seven fold in just a month and the continued impact of Covid hitting staff hard, with related absences up almost 50% on the end of November.
“As well as flu, the NHS continues to be under significant pressure, with high bed occupancy, more than 12,000 beds taken up by patients medically fit for discharge, and demand for the 111 service remaining high, so please do make the most of 111 online, and only call 999 or visit A&E in an emergency.
“It is clear this is no time to be complacent and the risk of serious illness is very real, so with nearly 350,000 available vaccination appointments next week it is important that everyone eligible comes forward and gets their Covid and flu jabs at the earliest opportunity.”