Health boss's plea over flu outbreak

AN EARLY outbreak of flu has left Suffolk hospital staff under pressure and health officials are urging people to only visit A&E or call an ambulance in a genuine emergency.

John Howard

AN EARLY outbreak of flu has left Suffolk hospital staff under pressure and health officials are urging people to only visit A&E or call an ambulance in a genuine emergency.

Doctors and nurses are under intense pressure as the cold snap has brought an increase in the number of chest and cardiac problems.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich hospital, said: “This time of year is obviously traditionally our busiest and last week was extremely busy.

“This year with flu, and flu-like symptoms, we have a lot of ill people with breathing difficulties, and respiratory problems.”

At the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, a spokesman said: “For a variety of different reasons, there is always a rise in the number of people coming to the hospital during the winter months, and we have extensive plans in place to cope with that increase in demand.

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“We never turn patients away, but do ask people to help us to help them by making sure they go to the right place for treatment.

“A range of advice is available from pharmacists, GPs and through NHS Direct, and we would urge people to only come into accident and emergency (A&E) if it is absolutely necessary.”

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health for NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, said: “Influenza is extremely contagious and can be potentially very serious, and we have been urging everyone who is eligible to make sure they have had a flu vaccination at their local GP surgery.

“Every year, the Department of Health also issues advice to GPs on the use of antiviral drugs to treat flu as soon as the illness begins to circulate.

“However, although flu has started earlier this year than it did last year, levels are not unusually high at this stage.

“In general, the Christmas period can be very busy for the NHS, so we have been asking everyone in Suffolk to plan well and make sure they go to the right place for treatment over the holidays.

“By acting responsibly, people can help us to look after everybody in the most appropriate way according to their medical needs.”

Dr Bradley said that people should only contact the ambulance service or visit A&E in a genuine emergency, and can gain further advice from NHS Direct, on 0845 46 47, local pharmacies, GP surgeries and the minor injury units at Felixstowe and Ipswich.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Flu has started earlier this year than last year, but current levels are not unusually high. We will continue to monitor levels closely.”