A significant number of calls were made to the 111 services last week as people sought NHS advice over flu and Strep A infections.
Over 700,000 thousand calls were made to the NHS 111 service last week, an increase of over 60% compared to the previous week. This is the highest number of calls ever made in one week to NHS advice services, excluding the first two weeks in the of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NHS experienced high call volume from parents concerned about rising Strep A infections. Calls concerning Step A have more than doubled compared to last year.
More use of NHS advice services is encouraged
“This huge increase in calls to NHS 111 is understandable with concerns about winter viruses – including Strep A – a top priority for the public, but it is more important than ever that the public uses 111 online where possible to get important information and NHS advice on non-emergency health conditions and to be signposted to the best possible care,” said Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director.
Despite industrial action, the NHS has encouraged people to continue to use the 111 NHS advice services, but to only call 999 in a medical or mental health emergency.
“With industrial action planned today and next week, NHS teams are working hard to minimise disruption and while people may see their local services impacted, they must continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency during strikes, as well as attending pre-booked appointments as planned unless they have been contacted for it be rearranged,” said Powis.
Local NHS Trusts will contact anyone whose appointment has had to be rescheduled due to industrial strikes, and the NHS has urged people to attend appointments as planned if they have not been contacted.
The number of patients hospitalised with general flu last week was 1,162, an increase of almost two-thirds on the week before (712).
Patients experiencing the most serious flu was also on the rise, with 87 patients in critical care beds, almost 50% higher than the previous week (60).
Increased pressure on the NHS
The impact of post-pandemic impact of viruses returning to circulation has affected public health in the UK. In 2021, there were just 25 patients a day with flu in hospital and only one in critical care.
The number of adult beds closed due to norovirus has risen by more than a fifth since the first week of December, to a total of 457 (from 375). In total more than 19 in 20 adult general and acute NHS beds were occupied last week.
This pressure on NHS beds comes alongside the 13,245 beds occupied by patients that were deemed medically fit for discharge last week, up by more over a quarter on the 10,509 beds occupied this time last year.
“Earlier this month I warned of a ‘perfect storm’ of winter pressures but the NHS has prepared like never before with the rollout of falls response services, system control centres, additional equivalent beds and extra call handlers so please do come forward for the care you need and get your COVID-19 and flu vaccines if you are eligible,” said Powis.