Winter grips Scotland with unprecedented rise in health concerns

Over three days of festivities Scotland’s NHS 24 has received almost 30,000 calls. This made 27th of December NHS 24’s busiest day since January 2007. The surge in demand for the service was due to the closure of GP surgeries over the festive weekend.

According to NHS 24 medical director Dr George Crooks people should follow the health guidelines in the ‘Be Ready For Winter’ campaign, including ensuring medicine cabinets are well-stocked to cope with seasonal colds and flu-like illness.

He added, “Winter is undoubtedly NHS Scotland’s busiest time of year, and it’s important people know who to turn to if they are unwell. We’re advising people to seek the pharmacist’s advice as the first step, but to make an appointment with their GP if they have an illness or injury that just won’t go away.”

He also urged people to get their seasonal flu jab early in the new year. More than 230,000 people in Scotland have already received the jab since the vaccination programme started in October. He revealed that where more than 70% of over-65s have had their jab, the uptake has been lower among pregnant women, with only 19% of this group getting vaccinated.

Figures also reveal that between Dec 6 and 12, an estimated 11,193 people died in England and Wales, above the expected maximum for the time of year and almost 2,000 more deaths than the previous week. Brutal winter and respiratory viruses, including flu, for the 21 per cent increase in the death rate could be blamed said experts.

An extra 1,973 deaths showed up in the Health Protection Agency’s latest report on the spread of flu this winter. The last week’s report from HPA reads, “In week 49, an estimated 11,193 all-cause deaths were registered in England and Wales, an increase from the previous week and now above the upper limit of expected levels for this time of year. Potential factors for this increase include recent cold weather and circulating respiratory viruses.”

According to a spokesman for the Department of Health, “Across government we are working on our cold weather plans which are supported by our pledge to retain the winter fuel allowance, which will help people to keep homes warm… We have turned the temporary increase in the cold weather payments, introduced by the last government, into a permanent increase.”

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

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