Fears over impact of flu on the NHS this winter

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Argus

Thousands of people in Brighton and Hove at a high risk of medical complications from contracting the flu virus are being urged to get vaccinated this autumn, The Argus reports.

The reminder comes as health bosses warn the virus could put much more pressure than usual on GPs and hospitals over the winter months.

It follows the worst outbreak in many years in Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at a recent health conference in Manchester, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the winter flu season in the southern hemisphere was a pointer to the pressure which could build up in the NHS this winter.

Reports have suggested there has been close to double the amount of flu circulating in Australia this July and August – the country’s core winter months – than the average over the previous five winters.

The NHS in Brighton and Hove is offering a free flu vaccine to at-risk groups, which include those aged over 65, those under 65 but who have a long-term condition and pregnant women.

GP and clinical lead for public health at Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, Katie Stead, said: “These people are at particular risk from getting very ill from the flu and vaccination is the best protection we have against this unpredictable virus.

“If you are eligible for the flu vaccine get it now – it’s free because you need it.”

Flu is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications for those with conditions like bronchitis, diabetes, heart or liver disease.

Catching flu on top of these can easily develop into something very serious and could get bad enough to require hospital treatment.

Anyone in these groups can receive the flu vaccine through their GP or from their local high street pharmacist.

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However, many eligible people are still not being vaccinated, leaving themselves and others at risk from the virus.

Last year, just 37% of pregnant women and only 22% of children under four were given the vaccination they were entitled to.

Children aged two and three will be offered the vaccination at their general practice, and those in reception class and school years one, two, three and four will be offered their vaccination in school.

Dr Stead said: “We are encouraging pregnant women and those in the ‘at risk of complications’ groups to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine.

“These people are at particular risk from getting very ill from the flu and vaccination is the best protection we have against this unpredictable virus.

“If you are eligible for the flu vaccine get it now – it’s free because you need it.

“Contact your GP, pharmacist to get the flu jab.”

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