Rise in cases of norovirus puts more pressure on hospitals

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A spike in cases of norovirus has put further pressure on hospitals, latest figures show.

NHS England said there had been a “sharp increase” in the number of bed closures due to norovirus or diarrhoea and vomiting from an average of 621 to 742 beds a day.

It said a “marked increase” in the number of reports of norovirus in recent weeks meant they were now above the five-year average for this week.

Bed occupancy levels were also high, at 94.8%.

Flu has been causing a massive strain with 120 confirmed flu-related deaths so far this winter, but levels appear to now be stabilising.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said NHS staff were left “anxious and depressed” under the strain.

“Pressures in the system remain high and it really is offensive and disingenuous to see the Prime Minister only yesterday remain adamant that the NHS was better prepared than ever this winter,” he said.

“In our own recent survey, more than three-quarters of clinicians working in acute medicine felt their hospitals were not adequately prepared for winter this year and 28% felt in a worse position than last year.

“The major concerns raised were a lack beds, inability of emergency departments to cope with numbers and staffing shortages among nurses and junior doctors. We need a system redesign not baseless reassurances.

“The overall mood among healthcare staff is that they remain anxious and depressed and we simply cannot afford a repeat of these dire circumstances again.”

The figures released on Thursday show there were 11,000 ambulance delays of more than 30 minutes this week, down from 12,600 last week.

Of these, 2,200 patients were left waiting inside an ambulance at A&E for more than an hour, down from 2,600 the previous week. Patients are meant to be handed over within 15 minutes of arrival at an emergency department.

An NHS England spokesman said: “While levels of flu have stabilised, there has been a spike in the number of norovirus cases which continues to put pressure on busy hospitals and other frontline services.

“And while the NHS is generally coping with ongoing winter demands, the public can continue to play their part by using NHS 111 and pharmacists for advice.”

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