NHS staff dealt with a significant number of NHS 111 calls last week with over 700,000 calls in one week alone– an increase of over 60% compared to the previous week (from 440,047 to 706,129.)
Excluding two weeks in the first month of the Covid pandemic (March 2020), this is the highest number of 111 calls ever recorded.
The NHS experienced more calls demand from parents concerned about rising Strep A infections, with the number of calls more than doubling compared to the equivalent week last year.
With industrial action today, the NHS has encouraged people to continue to come forward for the care they need, with patients encouraged to call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency.
Local NHS Trusts will be in touch with anyone whose appointment has to be rescheduled for strikes, so please attend appointments as planned if you have not been contacted.
The NHS has been preparing extensively for strikes and winter, with plans already in place to manage additional demand including 24/7 control centres, additional bed capacity, more mental health support for ambulance services and more community falls services.
The number of patients with flu in general and acute beds every day last week was at 1,162, up by almost two thirds on the week before (712).
Patients experiencing the most serious illness for flu was also up, with 87 patients in critical care beds – almost 50% higher than the previous week (60).
The NHS continues to see the post-pandemic impact of viruses circulating again, with the same period in 2021 seeing an average of just 25 patients a day with flu in hospital and only 1 in critical care.
The number of adult beds closed due to norovirus was up more than a fifth on the first week of December, to a total of 457 (from 375).A total of more than 19 in 20 adult general and acute beds were occupied last week, with an average of 56,567 NHS staff off work sick every day.
This pressure on NHS beds comes on top of the 13,245 beds occupied by patients that were medically fit for discharge last week, up more than a quarter on the 10,509 beds occupied this time last year.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “This huge increase in calls to NHS 111 is understandable with concerns about winter viruses – including Strep A – a top priority for the public, but it is more important than ever that the public uses 111 online where possible to get important information about non-emergency health conditions and to be signposted to the best possible care.
“With industrial action planned today and next week, NHS teams are working hard to minimise disruption and while people may see their local services impacted, they must continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency during strikes, as well as attending pre-booked appointments as planned unless they have been contacted for it be rearranged.
“Earlier this month I warned of a ‘perfect storm’ of winter pressures but the NHS has prepared like never before with the rollout of falls response services, system control centres, additional equivalent beds and extra call handlers so please do come forward for the care you need and get your Covid and flu vaccines if you are eligible.”
Last week, the NHS also announced plans backed by £10 million of investment, to increase mental health support with dozens more mental health professionals working with ambulance services to treat people in crisis.