HOSPITALS and doctors’ surgeries have been seeing 150 extra patients a day, as cases of flu and other winter illnesses continue to rise.
GP surgeries have been feeling the pressure and with many extending their opening hours to cope with the demand.
Nick Brooks, spokesman for NHS West Sussex, said: “Primary care, hospitals, community services and out of hours are all working closely together to ensure essential services are protected at a time when the numbers of cases of flu, diarrhoea and vomiting illnesses, and other seasonal pressures are all on the rise.
“Western Sussex Hospitals Trust (Worthing and St Richard’s A&E) has been seeing 150 extra patients a day since December 27, compared to the December average.
“Harmoni (the out of hours primary care in West Sussex) is receiving significantly more calls than last December, peaking at more than 400 calls an hour on the morning of December 28.”
Mr Brooks said the local NHS was responding well to the winter-related pressures and all hospitals and health centres were in contact daily to ensure all possible beds were available and used.
He said hospital staff were working extra days and GPs were doing more shifts to support out-of-hours cover.
Dr Tim Kimber, from The Park Surgery, St Flora’s Road, Littlehampton, said: “We are seeing large numbers of people, with flu and other viral illnesses making up more than half of our workload at the moment – that is very unusual for us.
“We are well prepared for this, but at such times, patients must appreciate that there may be occasions when we have to prioritise our efforts to those in greatest need.”
More people than last year in West Sussex – about 60,000 – have not taken up the free flu jab they are entitled to.
Free flu jabs
Dr Nick Kendall, public health specialist for NHS West Sussex, said: “In West Sussex, there are about 30,000 people aged over 65 who have not had their free flu jab, and a further 30,000 younger people in at-risk groups who have not protected themselves.
“The flu season will be with us for some time yet so anyone who is eligible for the vaccine should contact their doctor to make sure they protect themselves, and those around them.”
Patients are also being urged to choose the right NHS services if they do become unwell.
Dr Andrew Foulkes, medical director for NHS West Sussex, said: “When demands on the NHS are high, it is even more important than usual that people make good choices about the care they need.
“For life-threatening, or emergency situations there are A&E and ambulance services, but for less serious problems there are many other options for people which can often mean faster, more appropriate treatment. That can include calling your GP surgery for advice over the phone, rather than turning up to the practice in person.”
More information is available at www.nhs.uk