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Flu rates in Wales highest for a decade

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7228.138/a (Published 15 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:138
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Elective surgery in most hospitals in Wales was cancelled this week as influenza rates in the principality reached the highest recorded level for more than a decade. The BMA in Wales warned that the halt in elective surgery would lead to a summer beds crisis as hospitals tried to catch up on cases.

    Latest figures show 189 flu cases per 100000 population in Wales, and the Welsh Assembly's health secretary, Jane Hutt, said that the NHS was having to deal with substantial levels of illness.

    “The situation remains extremely tight in Wales. Elective surgery will be cancelled in most hospitals this week in order that they can continue to deal with the high level of emergency admissions,” she said.

    Ms Hutt, who said that she was monitoring the situation on a daily basis, said that the 189 per 100000 figure represented only patients presenting at general practice surgeries and did not take account of people who had sought help from pharmacies or who were treating themselves.

    The Welsh Assembly, whose figures also show that only 30%of people aged over 75 have taken up the flu vaccine this year, are expected to get a report on how well the winter management plans have worked from Ms Hutt.

    The Welsh BMA's secretary, Dr Bob Broughton, said that, although the flu incidence had not reached the epidemic level of 400 per 100000, it was the effects that were important. “Whether or not it is an epidemic is to my mind an academic argument. What is important is that the impact on the service is of epidemic proportions in terms of the adverse effects,” he said.

    “Elective surgery is down, and we will now have a summer crisis when everyone is trying to get the backlog of electives in and can't find beds.

    “Last year there were several days in midsummer when there were no available beds in Wales, but that didn't hit the press because it wasn't a winter crisis, although it was directly connected to last year's winter crisis.”

    He said that a second adverse effect was that staff were under unacceptable pressure in terms of both intensity of work and hours.

    “That's a cost in this day and age which should be deemed unacceptable by management if they wish to retain staff in a system in Wales where we have severe manpower problems,” he said.

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