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Winter vomiting bug cases are 56% higher than 6last year


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Cases of the winter vomiting bug are 56 per cent higher than this time last year, new figures reveal.

In the past week, 5,886 beds across NHS hospitals have been occupied by people suffering from norovirus or vomiting and diarrhoea, making an average daily occupancy rate of 841.

This is compared to just 3,755 beds being cut off due to the conditions between 13 and 19 February 2017; which gave a daily average of 536. 

Responding to the figures, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Hospitals lost more than double the number of beds to norovirus compared to this point last year, leaving patients waiting on trolleys in corridors, and ambulances queuing outside.

‘This is not sustainable’.

Experts have previously warned the spike in norovirus cases is putting pressure on already over-stretched hospitals, which are battling their worst winter ever.

Cases of the winter vomiting bug are 56 per cent higher than this time last year (stock)

WHAT IS NOROVIRUS AND HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO CLEAR UP?

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach infections in the UK and it is referred to winter vomiting bug as it usually occurs at this time of year.

Usually it clears up by itself within 24 to 48 hours but it can very serious for already frail patients, and can lead to dehydration.

The virus, which can also cause diarrhoea, is extremely contagious and can create huge disruption in hospitals as it spreads so quickly between patients.

But the winter vomiting bug has a tendency to mutate and some strains are worse than others, leading to higher numbers of infections. 

‘Norovirus presents a big challenge to nursing staff’

Referring to the norovirus outbreak, Ms Davies said last week: ‘That same shortage of beds means thousands of ambulances each week – often carrying older and vulnerable people – are left queuing at the door of A&E departments for an hour or more.

‘Norovirus presents a big challenge to nursing staff in winter and everybody can play a part in reducing it.

‘Patients should inform staff when they are admitted to hospital if they, or those they live with, are showing symptoms. Friends and family should not visit people in hospital if they know they are infected themselves.’  

‘We advise people not to visit GP surgeries and hospitals with symptoms’ 

Despite the NHS figures, separate data released by Public Health England (PHE) suggests norovirus cases ‘may have peaked’. 

Nick Phin, deputy director of National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: ‘Case numbers of norovirus are reducing and the indications are that activity may have peaked.’ 

PHE figures also imply the most norovirus cases that have occurred in any given week in 2017-to-2018 peak at around 225, compared to more than 700 in 2015-to-2016.

Unlike the NHS data, which used bed occupancy rates to gauge norovirus prevalence, PHE look at laboratory-confirmed cases. 

Mr Phin added: ‘Case numbers of norovirus are reducing and the indications are that activity may have peaked.

‘One of the best ways to protect against norovirus is by practicing good hygiene. 

‘This includes thorough hand washing after using the toilet and before eating or preparing foods. 

‘Most people will make a full recovery within 1-2 days but it is important to drink plenty of fluids during that time to prevent dehydration especially in the very young, elderly or those with weakened immunity.

‘We advise people not to visit GP surgeries and hospitals with symptoms, however if they are concerned they should contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone.’

The spike in norovirus cases is putting pressure on already over-stretched hospitals (stock)

The spike in norovirus cases is putting pressure on already over-stretched hospitals (stock)

Past week in the NHS at-a-glance  

NHS England figures, released today, follow Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s recent admittance that it was the NHS’ ‘worst ever winter’. 

Overall bed occupancy rate sits at 94.9 per cent, which is well above the recommended safe levels of 85 per cent, according to data from all 137 trusts in England.

This has remained at a similar level since New Year’s Day.

The number of patients having to wait more than 30 minutes to be seen after arriving at A&E by ambulances has increased to 13,302 in the past week from 10,751 in the previous seven days, which was the lowest amount since November.

Yet, just 23 ambulances were turned away by busy A&E units during the week ending February 18 compared to 30 diverts the week before.

Figures also show a reduction in the number of calls to NHS 111, with 248,855 being recorded, which is 25.9 per cent lower than the previous week.

WHAT ARE THE BED OCCUPANCY RATES IN THE NHS THIS WINTER?

NHS England data, collected from all 137 trusts across the country, show the overall bed occupancy rates for each week this winter.

February 12-18

February 5-11

January 29-4

January 22-28

January 15-21

January 8-14

January 1-7

December 25-31

December 18-24

December 11-17

December 4-10

November 27-3

 94.9%

95.0%

95.1% 

95.1%

94.8%

94.9%

95.0%

91.7%

90.8%

95.1%

94.5%

94.5% 

HOW MANY CALLS HAVE BEEN MADE TO NHS 111 THIS WINTER?

NHS England data, collected from all 137 trusts across the country, show the overall number of calls made to NHS 111 for each week this winter.

February 12-18 

February 5-11

January 29-4

January 22-28

January 15-21

January 8-14

January 1-7

December 25-31

December 18-24

December 11-17

December 4-10

November 27-3

248,855 

335,918

324,301

328,412

324,853

322,073

395,704

480,371

396,262

325,042

267,374

300,644 

HOW MANY PATIENTS HAVE BEEN STUCK IN AMBULANCES OUTSIDE?

NHS England data show the overall number of patients who were stuck in ambulances outside A&E units for more than half an hour this winter.

February 12-18 

February 5-11

January 29-4

January 22-28

January 15-21

January 8-14

January 1-7

December 25-31

December 18-24

December 11-17

December 4-10

November 27-3

 13,302

10,751

11,694

11,061

11,019

12,559

16,690

16,893

11,852

14,323

11,852

10,184 

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE AMBULANCES BEEN TURNED AWAY?

NHS England data, collected from all 137 trusts across the country, show the amount of times ambulances have been turned away this winter.

February 12-18 

February 5-11

January 29-4 

January 22-28

January 15-21

January 8-14

January 1-7

December 25-31

December 18-24

December 11-17

December 4-10

November 27-3 

 23

30

36

43

20

6

32

39

6

30

25

11 



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