Latest urgent and emergency care situation report shows rising winter virus levels

Rory Deighton warns that the upcoming junior doctors strike could exacerbate winter pressures.

7 December 2023

  • The number of general and acute beds occupied by flu patients increased by 53% week-on-week from 153 on average per day to 234;
  • But this is 67% lower than the 712 a day during the same week last year;
  • Hospital adult norovirus cases rose by 15% to 406 patients on average each day last week, up from 351 the previous week and a 28% rise on last year;
  • RSV cases in children also rose 11% from an average of 131 to 146;
  • There are nearly 1,400 more general and acute beds open in England compared to last year – up from 99,508 to 100,903;
  • But bed occupancy remains around 95%.

Responding to the latest urgent and emergency care winter situation report from NHS England Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said:

“The rise in winter viruses and staff sickness suggests that the pressure on health services is only going to continue to mount as we get deeper into winter. While NHS leaders and their teams have put in a herculean effort to prepare for winter we know that viruses and staff absences will only continue to increase.

“These winter pressures can only be exacerbated by the upcoming junior doctors strikes which are scheduled for some of the most difficult weeks of the year for NHS services. The risk is that this fresh wave of industrial action will pile even more pressure on to already stretched services. 

“It is not too late for the BMA to change its mind and for the government to commence fresh talks in the interest of patients this winter. 

“While the efforts trusts have put in to prepare for winter have borne fruit such as around 1,500 more beds than last year, we are worried that services can only cope with so much before patient safety is jeopardised. Bed occupancy is still high despite these new beds and delayed discharges remain a major challenge for hospitals, community and social services.”