Britons urged to get flu jab as hospitalisations soar amid strikes

Nurses strike: RCN members at St Thomas' Hospital in London

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A second walkout by nurses tomorrow, and ambulance staff on Wednesday, has raised fears the service could collapse.

The plea comes as for the first time this year, hospital admissions for flu are outstripping those with Covid.

And it is exactly 1,000 days after the implementation of the first national lockdown on March 23, 2020.

Former nurse and health minister Maria Caulfield said: “Now is not the time to be complacent. Take up much-needed protection for yourself and those around you – it might be the best gift you can give this Christmas.”

Huge strain on NHS services is showing, with the number of patients with flu in general and acute beds every day last week at 1,162 – up by almost two-thirds on the previous week.

Meanwhile, the number experiencing the most serious illness for flu was also up, with 87 patients in critical care beds – almost 50 per cent higher than the previous week.

In the same period last year, there was an average of just 25 patients a day hospitalised with flu and one in critical care.

Last week, the number of adult beds closed due to norovirus was up more than a fifth on the start of this month.

Overall, 19 in 20 adult general and acute beds were occupied last week – with an average of 56,567 NHS staff off sick every day.

More than 19 million people have received a flu vaccine while 17 million of those eligible had a Covid booster.

However, calls to the nonemergency 111 line last week (706,129) were the highest ever recorded, except for the first fortnight of the pandemic.

Calls included those from panicked parents concerned about rising strep A infections.

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “With industrial action planned, the NHS has prepared like never before – so please come forward for the care you need and get your Covid and flu vaccines if you are eligible.”

Those who can receive the Covid bivalent vaccine include those 50 and over, front-line health and social care workers and those at risk from either a weakened immune system or a long-term health condition.

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