Hospitals should brace themselves for 'pressurised' winter

NHS England head warns of a 'pressurised' winter after reports of hospitals in the southern hemisphere struggling to cope with the flu season

NHS England head warns of a 'pressurised' winter after reports of hospitals in the southern hemisphere struggling to cope with the flu season

NHS England urges hospitals to be prepared for the upcoming flu season. Picture: Justin Slee

The comments from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens come at the tail end of a 'heavy flu outbreak' in the southern hemisphere during its winter.

He said that hospitals in Australia and New Zealand struggled to cope and urged hospitals in England to be prepared.

Situation under review

Mr Stevens said the health service was reviewing the situation, particularly where hospitals were forced to close their doors to new patients and people faced long waiting times.

He told delegates at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo conference in Manchester: 'For the next three, four, five months, the top priority for every NHS leader and every part of the NHS, is ensuring that the NHS goes into winter in as strong a position as possible.

'We know we're going to have more hospital beds open, we know we are better prepared, but we also know that the pressures are going to be real.

'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 there have struggled to cope.

'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.'

Warning signs

Mr Stevens later added that the southern hermisphere flu outbreaks have put most pressure on old people's services like care homes.

He said that NHS England’s national urgent and emergency care director Pauline Philip has ensured that hospitals will at least have the 2,000 to 3,000 extra beds available that going into the year hospital chiefs thought would be needed. 

Public Health England medical director Paul Cosford said: 'The strains of flu circulating in Australia this past winter have led to a significant increase in cases, but it's too early to know which will be the dominant strain(s) of flu to circulate in England.

'Each year, the World Health Organization reviews the circulating strains of flu and recommends which flu strains should go in the vaccine.

'It's important that as many eligible people as possible get their jab which is the best way to protect everyone from flu.'

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