GPs remain under pressure as flu rates begin to fall

GP practices continue to face high rates of consultations for flu, but the number of cases is beginning to fall in most parts of the UK.

Consultation rates for influenza-like illness fell in England, Scotland and Wales in the week up to 11 February, but rose very slightly in Northern Ireland.

The consultation rate was 34 per 100,000 patients in England, compared with 43 per 100,000 the week before. This remains well above the medium intensity threshold of 24.2 per 100,000 patients.

The number of cases was also more than 2.5 times higher than the same week in last year’s flu season, when the rate was just 12.3 per 100,000 patients.

Flu consultations

Consultation rates in Scotland were down to 30.3 per 100,000 in the week to 11 February, compared with 45.5 per 100,000 the week before. Figures for Wales show that consultations rates were at 44.3 per 100,000 compared with 52.5 the previous week.

In Northern Ireland there was a slight increase in consultation rates from 29 to 30.6 per 100,000.

The highest consultation rates for flu in England were among 45-64-year-olds at 45.7 per 100,000.

The latest figures on flu cases came as NHS data on hospitals showed that bed occupancy rates remained at 95% for the fifth week in a row.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The system is extremely congested, making it difficult for hospitals to find beds for those who need to be admitted. Bed occupancy levels above 85% are considered to be unsafe, increasing the risk of cross infection between patients.

'The reality is that we now have a consistently overstretched health service, running without the capacity to meet demand all year-round.'

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