Flu levels remain high across UK, as Scotland sees fresh spike in cases

Flu levels remain high across all four UK nations, with consultation rates above baseline thresholds and a rise in cases in Scotland over the past week, latest official data show.

Consultation rates for flu remain high (Photo: UNP/Robert Johns)
Consultation rates for flu remain high (Photo: UNP/Robert Johns)

Flu levels in England reached 29.1 consultations per 100,000 in the seventh week of 2018 - the lowest level recorded this year, but well above the baseline threshold level of 13.1. England remains in the 'medium' category on the European moving epidemic method (MEM) scale - suggesting flu continues to place significant extra strain on GP practices.

In Wales, consultation rates fell slightly to 42.8 per 100,000 from 44.3 a week earlier - also putting Wales in the 'medium' MEM category.

Flu consultation rates in Scotland and Northern Ireland are now both in the 'low' MEM category, although Scotland saw a spike in cases over the past week - with 39.4 per 100,000, compared with around 30 the week before. Thresholds in different UK countries vary because of different methods of data collection and take into account levels of flu recorded in previous year - this is why Scotland's consultation rate is higher than England's, but sits at a lower level on the MEM scale.

GP workload

The highest rates of flu consultations in England were among patients aged 45-64, with 42.1 consultations per 100,000.

This year's flu outbreak has been the worst for seven years, according to NHS England, with many GP practices warning that it has added to already heavy workload.

GPonline reported this week that three quarters of GP partners said their practice had struggled to cope with pressure through this winter.

Hospitals continue to experience extreme pressure, and GP practices have warned that the knock-on impact is being felt in primary care.

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