HEALTH chiefs echoed The Sun’s “Do the Double” call yesterday and urged Brits to get flu and Covid jabs — as virus patients filled one in eight hospital beds.
NHS bosses and ministers again backed our campaign while medics warned they face their “worst ever” crisis.
Hospitals are so busy that even cardiac arrest patients are struggling to get ambulancesCredit: Alamy
The Sun has been urging Brits to protect against both viruses with a good degree of success.
However, nine million people are still due a Covid booster and 13 million have not taken up their free flu shot — meaning a total of 22million jabs on standby.
Hospitals are so busy that even cardiac arrest patients are struggling to get ambulances and A&E patients are waiting up to four days for help.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS is experiencing one of its busiest winters ever with record demand on emergency services and a resurgence in respiratory illnesses.
“Last week alone, more than 13,000 beds were occupied by a patient who either had Covid or flu. The latest figures show flu hospitalisations up seven-fold in the space of a month.
“These viruses can make you seriously ill. The best way to stay well is to get your Covid and flu vaccines.
“While almost two thirds of those eligible have come forward for their winter vaccines already, we know that millions have yet to do so and are missing out on vital protection — so book in without delay.”
Latest NHS figures show there are 9,459 hospital patients with Covid and 4,128 with flu. The total of 13,587 is 13 per cent of all available ward beds — one in every eight.
Both figures are expected to rise in the coming days and hospitals are already 94 per cent full.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting said: “I’m backing the Sun’s brilliant campaign and calling on the Government to do everything it can to bolster vaccination efforts to ease the pressure on hospitals.”
Adam Brimelow, of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said: “This flu season is the worst in years with a surge in patients adding to huge pressure on an already overstretched NHS. Covid-19 hasn’t gone away either so our message to everyone offered a flu vaccine or Covid booster is ‘get jabbed’.”
Essex medic Richard Webber, from the College of Paramedics, said his shift on Monday was one of the worst in his 30-year career.
He said: “There were two calls I heard go out for cardiac arrests saying ‘we have no ambulances available’ and I knew there were probably all the ambulances in my local area queued outside the hospital.”
HOW TO GET JABS
WHO is eligible for the Covid boosters and flu vaccines?
All over-50s, those with serious health conditions, pregnant women, care home residents, frontline health and care staff. Also carers and anyone living with someone with a weakened immune system. Kids aged two to 11 can get a free flu shot.
WHEN can I get them?
Flu jabs are once a year. Covid boosters must be given at least three months apart.
HOW do I book?
Visit www.nhs.uk, call 119 or contact your local pharmacy or surgery. You do not need to wait for an invitation to book.
CAN I have both jabs on the same day?
Yes, many NHS sites are offering this, with one in each arm. Studies have proven it is safe and effective to administer the vaccines together.
NHS bosses said London ambulance crews must now leave patients in A&E after a maximum wait of 45 minutes.
A leaked memo said that, from yesterday, if a patient is stable they should be dropped off on a hospital trolley, wheelchair or chair.
The note, revealed by ITV News, said there are “significant amounts of time being lost” handing over — putting 999 waiters at risk.
Ambulances are supposed to move on within 15 minutes.
Nearly half of all A&E visitors now face waits of more than four hours to be treated.
Appendicitis patient Michael Woodcock told the BBC he slept in his car while waiting for an emergency op because there were no beds available. He said: “I had to stay overnight as there was a risk the appendix would burst.”
Downing Street said it is confident the NHS has enough cash to weather the storm. The PM’s spokesman said: “We are doing everything possible to increase the number of beds.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We know the rise in Covid and flu cases is putting major strain on the NHS. I am working closely with NHS England to ensure their plans are doing all we can for patients.
“If you are eligible, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others around you, while easing pressure on the NHS, is to come forward for your Covid and flu vaccines.”
BANISH VACCINE FATIGUE
By Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS medical director
IT has been almost three years since the Covid pandemic changed the world and more than two years since the NHS delivered the first Covid-19 vaccine in the world outside of clinical trials.
While it is completely understandable people are suffering from so-called vaccine fatigue, the reality is Covid is still with us.
And for the first time this winter, we have seen the return of other viral infections, such as flu.
We are now contending with the twindemic of Covid and flu at a time the NHS is also facing record pressure on emergency and urgent care, on top of record vacancies.
Just last week, there were more than 13,000 beds across England occupied by a person with either flu or Covid. And as people head back to work and children back to school, community infection rates traditionally creep upwards.
So, if you are one of the millions of people who have been invited to have a flu or Covid booster vaccination this winter but have yet to come forward — now really is the best time to do so.
We know for a fact these vaccines help reduce the risk of ending up in hospital with Covid, flu, or pneumonia, or needing urgent and invasive support to stay alive.
Immunity can wane over time, so even if you have had previous doses, a booster can significantly increase your protection by bringing it back up to the highest level.
The UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) estimate more than 100,000 people were kept out of hospital last winter thanks to our previous Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
And the more people that have the maximum protection, the less chance that these viruses circulate unabated and cause serious illness to ourselves, our loved ones and wider communities.
So if you are yet to have your flu or Covid jabs, please Do the Double, and book in as soon as possible.
And as ever, if you need NHS care, please do continue to come forward as you usually would — using NHS 111 online and 999 in an emergency.