ENGLAND and Wales suffered their deadliest week for nearly two years before Christmas as the NHS is on the brink of collapse.
Experts say a huge flu outbreak is driving up the nations’ death toll and have warned hospital delays are killing hundreds per week.
Hospital deaths were 19 per cent higher than average in the week before ChristmasCredit: Getty
More people died between December 17 and 23 than any week since February 2021 (Source: Office for National Statistics)
More people died between December 17 and 23 than any week since the third Covid lockdown in February 2021, according to official figures.
A total of 14,530 Brits passed away, with only 429 linked to Covid.
Non-Covid deaths were the highest since January 2018, with 14,101.
Sarah Scobie, of the Nuffield Trust health think-tank, said: “The number of deaths in the week leading up to Christmas is concerning.
“A likely factor will be the nasty increase in flu circulating this year – it is at much greater levels than seen over the last few years.
“This flu season has hit us much earlier than usual so it could be the case that the spike in deaths is also playing out earlier than expected.”
The Office for National Statistics recorded 829 official flu deaths but the true number is likely higher.
Hospitals are battling a “twindemic” of flu and Covid circulating together for the first time.
Dr Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The problem with measuring flu deaths is that many are not directly due to flu but to secondary bacterial infections, such as Group A Strep and pneumonia.
“By the time people are admitted to hospital it is often no longer possible to confirm it was flu.”
Deaths of all causes were 21 per above average for the time of year.
Hospital fatalities were 19 per cent higher than usual, while there was a huge 38 per cent increase in people passing at home.
It comes as the NHS is in crisis, with A&E and ambulance waits at record highs and clinics crippled by staff shortages.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned last week that up to 500 people are dying every week because of emergency delays.
Dr Ian Higginson, vice-president of the RCEM, said: “Patients are dying in ambulances, in hospital corridors, and within hospitals and emergency departments, sometimes as a result of delays to treatment. This is a real problem.”