Hundreds of hospital beds taken up every day with flu as cases soar

24 November 2022

New weekly winter figures from the NHS show hundreds of hospital beds in England were taken up by flu every day in the last week as delayed discharges, ambulance delays and worrying levels of staff sickness take their toll on the NHS' ability to deliver timely care.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, said:

"The winter pressures trusts warned about have now arrived in full force. Emergency and ambulance services are already grappling under the enormous strain caused by the surge in cases of flu and other respiratory conditions, which are significantly higher than this time last year, and are only expected to get worse if we see another wave of COVID-19.

"Trusts are feeling the pressure across all parts of the health and care system with mental health and community providers also seeing worryingly high levels of demand. Trust leaders and their staff are doing all they can to meet surging demands and care for their patients, but are also contending with the vast backlogs of care largely caused by the pandemic, chronic workforce shortages and worrying levels of staff sickness.

"The stress we're seeing across urgent and emergency care is a symptom of system-wide pressure. Delayed discharges mean medically fit patients are not able to leave hospital fast enough due to a lack of investment in social care and community services. That impacts bed availability and admissions, and means ambulances are waiting to hand over patients to hospitals – delaying them from getting to other patients who need their help. Trust leaders understand only too well the disruption and distress this can cause.

"The government must act fast to fix an underfunded social care system and chronic staff shortages if we are going to ease pressure across the system. We welcomed the chancellor's commitment to workforce planning and forecasting in the autumn statement, but this needs to be followed through on urgently."