NHS issues plea over flu vaccine as number of hospitalisations more than doubled

After two years when pandemic restrictions kept cases very low, infections could rebound dramatically due to low immunity. The number of patients in hospital with flu is already more than double the last season’s peak, NHS figures show.

An average of 344 were on wards in England last week, ten times the figure at the same time a year earlier.

There were 29 in intensive care, compared with just three in the same week last November. Admissions to critical care are now higher for flu than for Covid.

Writing in the Daily Express today, Steve Barclay says this winter is set to be “one of the most difficult yet” for the embattled NHS.

The Health Secretary adds: “For some people, flu is unpleasant. But for others, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening, especially if you have a health condition that puts you at greater risk.

“Earlier this month, I joined the over 17 million people that have come forward for their flu jab, at the same time as I got my booster for Covid-19.

“It was quick and easy, and I’d urge all Express readers to come forward and join me if you haven’t already.”

In a sign of escalating concern, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

recommended antiviral medicines should be made available in the community.

The drugs, which reduce the risk of serious illness, can now be prescribed by GPs to vulnerable patients who have symptoms of flu or live with someone who has it.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “Flu and Covid are both circulating.

“We are currently seeing higher rates of flu at this time of year than usual. It is important those eligible have their flu jab as soon as they can.

“As flu cases have risen and in order to protect the most vulnerable – in line with pre-Covid flu seasons – antiviral medicines can now be prescribed in primary care settings such as GPs and pharmacies to those eligible who are most at risk to the complications of flu.”

She added: “Alongside older adults, flu rates are rapidly rising in younger children. Vaccination remains critical and I urge everyone eligible to take up the offer.”

The rise in flu admissions comes as hospitals in England are already at 95 percent occupancy.

Around 87,000 of the NHS’s 93,000 general and acute beds are full.

The health service is in the midst of a bed-blocking crisis, with 13,000 taken up by patients who are medically fit for discharge.

Three in ten patients arriving by ambulance – or a total of 22,883 – waited at least 30 minutes to be handed over to hospital teams last week, higher than at any point last winter.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: “The life-saving safety net that NHS ambulance services provide is being severely compromised by these unnecessary delays, and patients are dying and coming to harm as a result on a daily basis.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the data “shows the considerable pressure faced by staff before we enter what is likely to be the NHS’s most challenging winter ever”.

He added: “The figures also show that flu is unfortunately already with us and so the concerns that we had about the threat of a ‘tripledemic’ are very real.

“It has never been more important to get protected against the viruses ahead of winter so please book in for your jab if you are eligible if not already done so.”

Prof Powis insisted the NHS had “extensive plans” to cope this winter including boosting bed capacity, recruiting more 999 and 111 call handlers and introducing 24/7 control centres to manage demand.

He added: “Hospitals continue to contend with more patients coming in than going out with thousands of patients every day in hospital that are medically fit for discharge.

“We continue to work with colleagues in social care to do everything possible to ensure people can leave the hospital when they are ready.”

There were 4,600 Covid-positive patients in hospital as of Wednesday, down from 9,755 a month earlier.

The UKHSA said cases continued to decline. However, experts have warned another wave could still arrive in the coming months.

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.

“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.”

Strikes by healthcare staff are set to add to pressure next month as nurses walk out over pay.

The Royal College of Nursing will today announce the first dates for industrial action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December.

The union’s general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “My offer of formal negotiations was declined and instead ministers have chosen strike action.

“They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”

Mr Barclay said he “deeply regretted” the decision of some nurses to strike.

He added: “These are challenging times for everyone and the economic circumstances mean the RCN’s demands, which on current figures are a 19.2 percent pay rise, costing £10 billion a year, are not affordable.”

A midwife is leading the rallying call for eligible Britons to get flu jabs after falling chronically ill from it in intensive care, just days before she was due her vaccine, writes Chris Riches.

Fit and healthy medic Martyne Drinkall, 44, usually spends her days delivering babies and advising new mums at Leighton Hospital, in Crewe, Cheshire, and always makes sure she gets her flu inoculation.

She said at one stage she felt she was “dying” but slowly has improved and warns if this can happen to her, the flu could be devastating for older, vulnerable people.

Martyne said: “I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for a couple of days as I was very poorly. I literally thought I was dying; in fact, I was shouting ‘I am dying’.

“The care I received was absolutely amazing. I was so scared, but I eventually turned the corner and I am getting stronger each day. I have never had flu before and if I am honest, I never thought it would happen to me.”

Martyne ensures she is jabbed for flu every year and was due to have her annual jab at the time she fell ill. The viruses that cause flu can mutate and change every year, so an annual jab is needed to ensure you are protected.

She explained: “Thank goodness I am a strong, healthy woman otherwise this would have been a very different story as flu definitely tried to kill me.

“After the experience I have gone through, I would encourage everyone to have their vaccine as soon as possible so they are protected this winter.

“If I could save just one person and their family from going through what I did, I would be very happy.”

Martyne’s story comes as NHS Cheshire and Merseyside warn of a drop in the number of people coming forward for their vaccinations.

Professor Rowan Pritchard-Jones, Medical Director for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said: “We have seen a real reduction in demand for both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 booster jabs during the last few weeks.

“This could be due to people being unwell and therefore unable to attend or, more worryingly, it could be down to a lack of understanding or interest of how important the vaccines are.

“People with long-term health conditions are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill with flu – as are those are over 50 and pregnant women – so we need to encourage these people to come forward.”

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  • 3 часа, 55 минут назад 05.12.2022Health Care
    Doctor George says ‘lung cancer wasn’t on my radar whatsoever’ – key signs

    When Dr George’s mum fell ill, he didn’t suspect that she had something sinister. “Even as a doctor, lung cancer wasn’t on my radar whatsoever,” he said of his mum’s diagnosis. Having first caught Covid, the malaise and shortness of breath persisted, leading Dr George’s mum to contact her GP.

    “She was diagnosed with a chest infection and told to take some antibiotics, inhalers and steroids,” Dr George recalled.

    A few weeks went by, but Dr George’s mum wasn’t getting any better, so an X-ray was arranged.

    “Mum attended the outpatient clinic by herself when she was told that she had cancer,” Dr George said.

    “There really weren’t any warning signs that it was anything sinister until she received the CT scan results from the consultant.”


    Remembering back, he added: “When I first found out I had very little information other than that she had lung cancer.”

    Describing the moment as “frightening”, he feared the worse, as “most people are diagnosed at stage four, at which point very little treatment can be offered”.

    “Finding out the diagnosis was like an earthquake that shook all our lives,” Dr George shared.

    “Fortunately, as we got more information, we were told it was an early cancer.

    “Many people don’t realise that a cough for three weeks or more could be a sign of lung cancer,” said Dr George.

    “So it is vital that patients act on a persistent cough and don’t wait to see if it resolves on its own.”

    Symptoms of lung cancer:

    As the third most common cancer in the UK, it’s imperative that anybody experiencing any of these symptoms should see their doctor.

    “The risk of developing lung cancer is most commonly attributed to smoking,” said Dr George. “However, this is not always the case.”

    He added: “It’s vital that everyone stays alert against suspected symptoms.

    “So, if you have a continuous cough or breathlessness, don’t ignore or assume it’s something else.

    “Please visit your GP and get it checked out – it probably won’t be cancer but catching it early can help save lives.”

    “We were relieved to speak with the hospital specialists who advised there were a whole array of different treatment options available.

    “Even whilst Mum was having her treatment more options became available, which was a type of immunotherapy which was only just approved.”

    Dr George added: “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of funding new research so that we have more cancer treatments in the future!”

    Wanting people to be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer, Dr George listed the signs to look out for.

  • 3 часа, 55 минут назад 05.12.2022Health Care
    Assisted dying inquiry launched in victory for Express campaign

    The Commons Health and Social Care Committee will hear evidence on the complex issue amid growing public support for law change.

    The role of medical professionals, access to palliative care, safeguarding against coercion, and eligibility criteria will be examined by MPs.

    And they will look overseas to learn from countries such as Canada and several US states which already have systems in place.

    Campaigners welcomed the news but raised concerns that the experiences of terminally ill people and those affected by the current law were not mentioned in the committee’s announcement.

    Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “This inquiry is a victory on the road to assisted dying law reform in the UK.

    “However, for a truly fair and evidence-based debate, it is paramount that this inquiry examines the impact of the current law and listens to the voices of those most affected; terminally ill people and their loved ones.

    “The message from the public to politicians couldn’t be simpler; you cannot ignore this any longer.

    “With assisted dying legislation being considered in parliaments across the British Isles, Westminster is rightly recognising that doing nothing is simply not an option.”

    The Daily Express Give Us Our Last Rights crusade has highlighted the plight of people like David Minns, a terminally ill patient with blood cancer who fears he faces a slow and agonising death.

    Five years ago, his daughter Katie died aged just 46 after suffering with another cancer, sarcoma.

    David, 75, said: “I don’t know how my life will end, but I am confronted by the prospect of a painful death, premature suicide or sedation via palliative care.

    “I am deprived of the controlled, dignified, peaceful exit that an assisted death would give me, with my loved ones present.

    “I am relieved that an inquiry has been called. A change in the law won’t come in time for me, but by contributing my and Katie’s experience to the committee, it will help MPs understand that action must be taken to avoid the terminally ill and their families having to suffer like ours.”

    Our campaign has also featured testimony from the loved ones of people who took their own lives in horrific ways while terminally ill.

    Steve Brine MP, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said the issue of assisted dying “understandably arouses passionate views with many different and equally valid perspectives”.

    He added: “It’s an issue that has vexed parliamentarians who have sought a way through the many ethical, moral, practical and humane considerations involved.

    “What has changed in recent years is that there is now real-world evidence to look at. Some form of assisted dying or assisted suicide is legal in at least 27 jurisdictions worldwide.”

    Mr Brine said it was time for MPs in the UK to look at the impact of law changes abroad to inform our debate.

    He promised the committee would hear from all sides and approach the inquiry with “compassion and an open mind”.

    He said: “We want to hear from campaigners, members of the medical profession and members of the public and we will look at the moral, ethical and practical concerns raised in a way that is informed by actual evidence.”

    Campaign groups, organisations and members of the public can make submissions until January 20. The committee will then decide which witnesses will be called to give evidence.

    Kit Malthouse MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, said the committee needed to “put themselves at the bedside with their constituents who have been through such horror”.

    He urged MPs to listen to those with personal experiences and consider whether the current law – which says those found guilty of assisting a suicide could face 14 years in prison – is serving the public.

  • 5 часов, 55 минут назад 05.12.2022Health Care
    ‘Significant’: Catechin-enriched tea shown to shrink visceral fat within weeks

    Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is stored deep in the belly meaning we can’t see it. A certain amount in the body is necessary to protect and insulate vital organs, however, too much of it can be dangerous.

    Having an excess of visceral fat has been linked to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

    Diet is known to be one factor that influences how much visceral fat you have.

    And a study has found that drinking a certain type of hot drink could help reduce this.

    Research, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, advocated for the consumption of catechin-enriched green tea.

    Catechin is a compound naturally found in tea leaves that has antioxidant properties.

    Green and white teas are known to contain the highest amount of catechins.

    As part of the study 104 Chinese adults (aged between 20 and 65) were randomly assigned to consume either a beverage containing 609.3 milligrams (mg) of catechins and 68.7mg caffeine, or a control beverage every day for 12 weeks.

    Abdominal fat area, body weight and composition were measured at the start, on week eight and week 12.

    It found those who drank the catechin and caffeine filled drinks saw a significant reduction in visceral fat as well as overall weight.

    It said: “Average visceral fat area, body weight, and body fat were reduced significantly by catechin-enriched green tea treatment but these effects were not seen in the control group with per-protocol sets analysis.

    “The decrease at week 12 in the visceral fat area in the catechin group was greater than that in the control group.

    “Thus, consumption of the catechin-enriched green tea beverage for 12 weeks induced visceral fat loss in Chinese adults with a high proportion of abdominal visceral fat.”

    The study was prompted by previous research suggesting the weight loss benefits of green tea.

    “In recent years, there have been many studies on the beneficial effects of green tea in treating obesity and improving glucose and lipid metabolism,” it explained.

    “It is reported that consumption of green tea rich in caffeine and catechins, may decrease body weight and body fat.

    “Green tea catechins contain various kinds of functional elements having anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidative, neuroprotective, and cholesterol-lowering effects.”

    It added that caffeine “stimulates” energy metabolism.

    The study said: “Our findings also support that mixture of catechins and caffeine has a benefit on visceral fat and body weight.”

    As visceral fat is stored deep in the belly it is impossible to know exactly how much you have without imaging tests.

    However, you can get a rough estimate by measuring your waist using the belly button as a marker.

    For women 35 inches or more can signal visceral fat and for men it’s 40 inches.

  • 7 часов, 54 минуты назад 04.12.2022Health Care
    World’s first saliva-based pregnancy test which boasts of 95% accuracy to hit UK shops

    The “SaliStick”, costing around £8, could spell the end of traditional tests that involve urinating on a stick.

    Israeli developer Salig­nostics created the saliva test based on technology used in Covid-19 test kits.

    It uses a foam-tipped stick which is placed in the woman’s mouth for a few seconds, then transferred to a tube where the result shows within a few minutes.

    Trials reportedly showed the new device identified pregnancies 95 percent of the time, while giving a false positive in fewer than three in 100 cases.

    This makes it slightly less reliable than most urine pregnancy tests, which are around 99 percent accurate.

    However, Salignostics co-founder Guy Krief told the Mail on Sunday his product was expected to be refined further.

    He said: “It’s a lovely idea if you’re trying for a baby to be able to do the test in front of your partner – and hopefully celebrate the goods news together immediately.”

    Both types of test work by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone specific to pregnancy which starts to be produced around six days after fertilisation.

    Salignostics was founded by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who have focused on use of saliva in diagnostics.

    Their other products include kits for detection of malaria, cardiac risk and H. pylori bacteria.

  • 7 часов, 54 минуты назад 04.12.2022Health Care
    Arthritis warning: Two popular fruits that can be ‘common pain triggers’

    Millions of people in the UK are currently living with arthritis and other joint problems. The condition can cause pain, swelling and inflammation, as well as mobility issues. Although there is no cure yet for arthritis, there are ways to manage the symptoms.

    Like many health conditions, diet can play a part in easing or worsening the condition.

    Health body the Physicians Committee has warned against certain foods, which can act as “pain triggers”.

    It said: “While genetic factors are important, studies show that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a role.

    “If you have rheumatoid arthritis, a diet change could help you, and perhaps even eliminate your pain entirely. In research studies, many people who cut out certain trigger foods find that their pain improves or goes away.

    “The reason, presumably, is that certain foods spark inflammation in the joints.

    “When those foods are gone, so is the inflammation.

    “A survey of more than 1,000 arthritis patients revealed that red meat, sugar, fat, salt, caffeine, and nightshade plants most commonly worsen the condition.”

    It lists apples and tomatoes as “common pain triggers” to avoid.

    Both apples and tomatoes contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison mainly found in species of the nightshade family.

    One study, published in the Arab Journal of Nuclear Sciences and Applications in 2013, considered the link between solanine and arthritis.

    “Solanine is a toxic compound produced in nightshades family such as potato, tomato and eggplant when exposed to light,” it explained.

    “The current study was carried out on 18 female postmenopausal albino rats to investigate the effect of solanine on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.”

    The study concluded: “The data of the present study showed that old age and postmenopausal suffering from arthritis and joint swollen must eliminate or avoid the nightshades plants to alleviate the joint pain and also decrease the destruction of the tissues.”

    However, this claim has been questioned by other health bodies.

    The Arthritis Society Canada recommended seeing how your body reacts to foods containing solanine.

    “Though research hasn’t identified a connection between nightshades and inflammation, some people with arthritis report a worsening of symptoms after eating nightshade vegetables and fruit,” it said.

    “If you think that nightshades are affecting your symptoms or otherwise making you feel unwell, you can try eliminating them from your diet for two weeks.

    “Slowly reintroduce foods one at a time two or three days apart.”

    Other foods containing solanine include:

    Arthritis symptoms include:

  • 9 часов, 55 минут назад 04.12.2022Health Care
    How to tell you’ve had a heart attack for a ‘few minutes’ without realising – the signs

    A heart attack is a medical emergency that occurs when supply of blood to the heart is blocked – often by a clot. Although the most common and well known sign of a heart attack is chest pain, this doesn’t always affect every patient. And for some, they experience it without even realising.

    A heart attack survivor shared his story via Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS).

    In a case study, 62-year-old lorry driver John explained how his only symptom lasted a “few minutes”.

    He said: “I thought a heart attack would feel like a sledgehammer hitting your chest – where the pain is so great that you clutch your chest and hit the ground.

    “But I just felt hot and sweaty for a few minutes and that was it.”

    A heart attack is a medical emergency that occurs when supply of blood to the heart is blocked – often by a clot. Although the most common and well known sign of a heart attack is chest pain, this doesn’t always affect every patient. And for some, they experience it without even realising.

    At the time John had been driving along the A9 in Scotland. “It was a feeling I’ve never had before,” he said.

    He pulled over and took a break for 20 minutes before setting off again after feeling “completely fine”.

    Although he underwent a health check not long after, it wasn’t until a full year later that a doctor revealed what John had experienced was in fact a heart attack.

    John added: “I was in complete shock after that. I didn’t realise you could have a heart attack and not even realise it.”

    And there are other symptoms of a heart attack that may not be obvious.

    According to CHSS, these can include feeling or being sick, looking grey and pale and feeling generally unwell and scared.

    It says: “The most common sign of a heart attack is chest pain that doesn’t go away, which may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing.

    “This sensation often starts in the middle of your chest and may travel to your neck, jaw, ears, arms or wrists.

    “Although this is the most common sign, not everyone experiences it.”

    Other symptoms which may indicate you’re having a heart attack include:

    “The symptoms of a heart attack can often be different in men and women,” it adds.

    “Women are more likely to experience symptoms other than chest pain, and slightly less likely to feel chest pain.”

    If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of a heart attack it is “crucial” you call 999.

    Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of heart attacks.

    Factors that raise your risk of coronary heart disease include:

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Health Care NHS issues plea over flu vaccine as number of hospitalisations more than doubled