NHS FEARS FLU VIRUS
Australia is just emerging from its worst flu outbreak on record, amidst fears previous outbreaks have corresponded with similar levels in the UK.
Figures reported up to the middle of August, not quite the end of Australia’s winter, showed a reported 70,000 cases of flu. This was nearly double the average number of cases compared to the average over the last five winters.
Despite hospitals in Australia and New Zealand struggling to cope with demand from vulnerable patients, NHS bosses have insisted measures are being taken to ensure UK hospitals are ready.
NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has said for the autumn months “the top priority for every NHS leader, every part of the NHS, is ensuring the NHS goes into winter in as strong a position as possible.”
This involves NHS hospitals committing to having an extra 2,000 to 3,000 extra beds open this winter compared to last year. However, to fulfil this pledge, they have called for local councils to help clear ‘bed blockers’. These are patients who are fit to return home but are stuck in hospital due to insufficient social care being organised.
In preparation for the winter, local councils have been given an extra £1billion to improve social care, but significant coordination is still required between councils and hospitals to ensure resources are where they are needed before flu season really begins.
In order to limit the number of infections, the NHS is once again highlighting the importance of being vaccinated. It has in fact been reported that the size of flu outbreak in Australia was partly attributed to a rise in cases in children, of whom only 10% received a vaccine.
You are currently eligible for a free flu vaccine if you are:
· Aged 65 and over
· Have certain medical conditions
· Living in a residential care home
· A carer for someone at risk of falling ill
· A child between 2 and 8 years old
· A child over 6 months old with certain medical conditions
There may be no guarantee that the same H3N2 strain from Australia will reach the UK. However, if it does, reports so far have seen this year’s flu vaccine to be particularly effective. It is hoped that a greater number of vaccinations will also help to reduce pressure on hospitals and GPs, leaving beds and appointments open for particularly vulnerable patients.
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