The NHS will likely face the worst flu season in many years, amid fears that overcrowded hospitals won’t cope.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens wants hospitals to brace for a “pressurised flu season”, after a “heavy flu outbreak” in the southern hemisphere during the UK’s winter, when hospitals in Australia and New Zealand struggled to cope.
“The signs from Australia and New Zealand, who are just coming out of their winter, are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals down there have struggled to cope,” said Stevens.
“We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.”
“The signs from the southern hemisphere winter have been that flu has been much higher and it has been the variety that puts the most pressure on the old people’s services like care homes.
“The World Health Organisation is reviewing the vaccines and if that reproduces itself here over this coming winter that is going to mean much more pressure on GP services and hospitals.
“The WHO identifies the best mix for the vaccine and that is the one Public Health England use.
“We are reviewing the Australia and New Zealand experience, where hospitals have closed to new patients and reported very long waiting times.”
“The evidence is we are likely to have a more pressurised flu season this year.”