News ID: 254619
Published: 0333 GMT June 21, 2019

Number of UK patients attending A&E with flu soars

Number of UK patients attending A&E with flu soars

The number of patients admitted to A&E (accident & emergency department) with flu has risen by 60 percent due to GP shortages, a major report warned.

Last year 1.3 million people with preventable conditions were admitted on to wards – accounting for a quarter of all emergency patients, wrote.

Their illnesses could have been entirely avoided had they been properly looked after by GPs, district nursing services or the social care system.

Figures show a quarter of a million admissions with flu or pneumonia to A&E last year, up from 158,000 five years ago.

The report by health watchdog Dr. Foster Intelligence Unit said the increase was partly due to a shortage of GPs, causing patients’ conditions to deteriorate while they wait.

It means thousands with relatively minor conditions, such as ear and urine infections, end up in A&E because they cannot access any out-of-hours care.

The report also blamed cuts to public health prevention services and poor vaccination programs which have caused adults to miss out on flu jabs.

Preventable emergency admissions cost the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) £125million a year and create huge problems for already overcrowded hospitals.

Tom Binstead, the report’s author, said the lack of GPs at weekends was a particular problem as people’s conditions then deteriorate.

He said: “There is limited primary or community care service availability on the weekend, restricting admissions to very severe cases at this time. Patients may become increasingly ill over the weekend, leading to more emergency admissions during the week.”

Pressure on GPs is increasing because of the ageing and growing population, but a record 138 GP surgeries shut down last year as millions struggled to secure appointments.

Those over 65 account for more than half of needless admissions. Some of these elderly patients never return home as they become too frail or succumb to another infection.

Figures show that 1,520 of those with preventable conditions stayed in hospital for over 100 days.

The report said that overall there has been a nine percent rise in emergency admissions for avoidable illnesses since 2013. All hospitals now record the number of patients admitted with conditions deemed avoidable by NHS England.

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