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Suffolk doctor says serious flu outbreak could push creaking NHS to breaking point

PUBLISHED: 18:11 12 January 2018

Uptake of the flu jab this year has been higher than last. Picture: PA

Uptake of the flu jab this year has been higher than last. Picture: PA

A severe flu outbreak could be enough to make the already fragile NHS crumble, a Suffolk GP has warned.

Dr Daniel James from Woolpit Health Centre. Picture: DANIEL JAMESDr Daniel James from Woolpit Health Centre. Picture: DANIEL JAMES

Dr Daniel James from Woolpit Health Centre said rising numbers of people were visiting his surgery with the virus, which can be fatal in vulnerable patients.

The situation is expected to get worse in the coming weeks as the notorious ‘Aussie flu’ is confirmed to have hit England.

With the health system already pushed to its limits this winter, Dr James said a serious epidemic could be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“At the moment I think the NHS is squeezed for all sorts of reasons,” he added. “There are problems with workforce, there are problems with funding, there are problems with social care and people not being discharged from hospital, that’s really where the pressure is coming from. We are just having a particularly bad winter.

West Suffolk Hospital is seeing patients with flu. Picture: SIMON PARKERWest Suffolk Hospital is seeing patients with flu. Picture: SIMON PARKER

“At the moment, we have in the GP surgery a handful of extra consultations for flu, and the A&E departments aren’t seeing huge numbers of it yet, but I think to me it’s the fact that they are already under extreme pressure, and it might be a struggle if we get a flu as bad as 2010/11 then we could see it going from creaking point to breaking point.”

However, Dr James said NHS services had strong winter plans in place to cope with escalated demand.

Uptake of the flu jab is higher this season than last, Dr James said, which means many of the most at-risk patients – including the elderly, young children and people with preexisting medical conditions – will have a layer of protection.

Flu symptoms include a fever, aching body and head, fatigue and a sore throat.

Dr James said the best home remedies were pain killers, hydration and rest, but anyone with concerns should contact 111, a pharmacist or their GP.

A West Suffolk Hospital spokeswoman said the trust was seeing some very unwell patients with flu and respiratory conditions.

She added: “Staff are assessing and treating each patient on a case-by-case basis, but it is business-as-usual at West Suffolk Hospital.”

Staff uptake of the flu vaccine is at 67.3%.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said staff were being given guidance on how to manage flu-like symptoms.

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