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York Hospital feels strain of 'flu outbreak
HEALTH services in York are being stretched to breaking point by a huge increase in people suffering from swine flu and other seasonal illnesses.
As wards at York Hospital continue to fill, planned operations are already being cancelled and the prospect of calling off urgent surgical procedures cannot be ruled out, according to the trust’s deputy chief executive, Mike Proctor.
“This hospital is under huge pressure today,” said Mr Proctor. “There is a big increase in flu-like illnesses – it’s significantly worse than last year.
“We have had to cancel some elective operations. We haven’t had to cancel our urgent operations but we will have to review that on a daily basis.”
He warned: “It’s probably going to be the worst case of flu in a long time. For people that come to the emergency department with non-critical complaints there will be a long wait.”
Mr Proctor also asked people who had symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea, not to visit relatives and friends in hospital, to avoid spreading viruses.
Meanwhile, out of hours GPs have reported that December 28 was their busiest day ever, with 3,700 calls to the service.
A spokesman for NHS North Yorkshire and York said they normally expected to receive about 1,000 per day at this time of year.
GP Dr Brian McGregor was one of those on call over Christmas and said he had experienced his busiest nights since he joined the service 16 years ago.
He said: “Those that need to be admitted we are admitting, but most are getting supportive treatment.
“Casualty is pressed and I know that the hospital was getting close to capacity.”
The trust is now urging people to consider using some of the alternative routes for diagnosis and treatment if they suspect they may have swine flu, such as calling the NHS Direct helpline or visiting a pharmacist.
A trust spokesman said: “One of our GP colleagues in York told us he was seeing patients, both in and out of hours that were essentially fit, healthy, young adults with viral illness who could have managed their own condition easily.”
The increase in cases comes only days after the death of 48-year-old father of two, Paul Band, from Copmanthorpe, who suffered a heart attack after complaining of flu-like symptoms.
Dr McGregor said: “It’s the 30 to 60s who have been knocked sideways by it. That age group doesn’t remember the last flu epidemic and they don’t realise what flu feels like. It will knock you out for ten days.”
What should you do if you suspect you have a serious case of flu?
• Keep your fluid intake up; sweet drinks are particularly good for battling dehydration – the cause of some of the aches and pains experienced with flu. Do not drink alcohol.
• Get rest. Dr Brian McGregor said most people do not realise that flu can knock them out for ten days.
• Take cold and flu remedies such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
• If you need advice, talk to your local pharmacist or phone NHS Direct free on 0845 46 47.
• Flu symptoms include aches and muscle or joint pain, headache, sudden fever, dry chesty cough and may include diarrhoea or stomach upset.
Parents urged to get at-risk children vaccinated
Parents were urged today to get their children vaccinated against flu if they fall into at-risk groups.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said it was “concerned” about the rising number of flu cases, and how it was affecting younger children. Flu has been striking the under-65s, with relatively high rates in youngsters under 15.
The most recent figures on numbers of deaths, published on New Year’s Eve, showed 39 people in the UK had died with flu since the start of the outbreak in October.
Of those, 36 had swine flu and another three had flu type B. Overall, 38 of the 39 victims were aged under 65, with four aged under five.
The Government has so far resisted calls for a national vaccination programme of young children, as was carried out last year for swine flu.
The RCPCH said it was “concerned” at the rising number of flu cases.
A spokesman said: “We would therefore encourage all children who are in an at-risk group, such as reduced immunity, breathing difficulties and diabetes – who have not yet been vaccinated, to take up the offer of the vaccination.”