More than 1,000 people are in hospital with flu across England, with the figure increasing by more than a third over the Christmas period, according to figures released by the NHS.
The data shows there were an average of 1,313 people in hospital with the virus each day during the week ending 31 December. That was an increase of a third on the week before, when the figure was 942.
The rise in hospital admissions for flu comes as junior doctors stage the longest strike in NHS history in their long-running dispute over pay.
Eighty-one flu patients were receiving critical care, representing an increase of almost 70% compared with the previous week.
The week to 31 December was also the busiest for ambulances so far this winter, with more than 93,500 arriving at hospitals.
Time lost as a result of handover delays between ambulance and hospital staff, however, was down 56% compared with the previous year.
The number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 also increased by 72% in December. There were an average of 3,929 in hospital with the virus each day across England in the last week of 2023, up from 2,290 in the week ending 30 November.
The NHS 111 helpline also had its busiest week of calls with 444,285 answered, almost 34,000 more than in the same week in 2022.
Prof Julian Redhead, NHS England’s national clinic director for urgent care, said the health service had started 2024 in a difficult position.
“Although we have extensive preparations in place for strikes, and emergency care will continue to be prioritised, there is no denying the NHS has started the year in a very difficult position,” he said.
“This latest round of strike action will not only have an impact on this week but will have an ongoing effect on the weeks and months ahead, as we struggle to recover services and cope with heavy demand, but as ever I would urge the public to get their flu and Covid vaccines if they are eligible, and continue to use 999 or A&E in an emergency, and 111 online for any other conditions.”
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