19 January 2023

Number of flu patients in hospitals in England falls by more than a third

19 January 2023

The number of flu patients English hospitals has fallen by more than a third in a week – the latest sign the current wave of infections may have peaked.

An average of 3,447 flu patients were in hospital beds each day last week, down 35% from 5,262 during the seven days to January 8, according to NHS England data.

At this point last winter, the figure stood at 41.

It is the second week in a row the average number of flu patients has fallen, after reaching a peak of 5,441 in the seven days to January 1.

The recent drop follows a surge in flu cases in the weeks before Christmas, which the UK Health Security Agency described as the worst flu season for a decade.

The average number of flu patients in general hospital beds in the seven days to January 15 was 3,226, down from 4,914 the previous week, while the average for critical care beds was down from 349 to 221.

The new NHS England data comes days after separate figures showed deaths due to flu and pneumonia accounted for nearly one in 10 of all deaths registered in England and Wales at the start of the year.

This was the highest proportion since before the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics data.

Some 1,383 deaths registered in the week to January 6 had flu and pneumonia recorded as the underlying cause – 9% of the total.

The weekly figure peaked at 7% in the pre-Covid winter of 2019/20.

The data also shows that the number of registered deaths continues to be well above average for the time of year, with 14% more deaths than usual registered in England and Wales in the week to January 6, following 20% above average in the previous week and 21% in the week to December 23.

The spike in extra deaths – known as excess deaths – is likely to reflect a number of factors, including the rise in flu cases as well as colder weather, Covid-19 and access to emergency care.

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