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NHS 111 saw 60% increase in demand last week amid strep A concerns

NHS 111 saw 60% increase in demand last week amid strep A concerns

NHS 111 saw a 60% increase in call numbers last week, in part driven by strep A concerns, with 700,000 calls in just one week.

Except for the first two weeks of the Covid pandemic, this was the highest number of 111 calls ever recorded, said NHS England.

However, on the first day of nurses’ industrial action, the NHS urged patients to ‘continue to come forward for the care they need’, including calling 999 ‘if is a medical or mental health emergency’.

The week before last there were 440,047 calls to NHS 111. NHS England said the 700,000 included more calls from parents concerned about rising strep A infections, with the number of calls about the condition doubling compared to the same week last year.

Pulse has asked NHS England how many of the calls were abandoned by the caller.

Last week, the BMA urged NHS England to bring in urgent additional capacity to NHS 111 call handling services, as GPs were getting overwhelmed by demand from parents worried about strep A.

At the same time:

  • The number of patients with flu in general and acute beds every day last week was at 1,162, up by almost two thirds on the week before (712).
  • Patients experiencing the most serious illness for flu was also up, with  87 patients in critical care beds – almost 50% higher than the previous week (60).
  • A total of more than 19 in 20 adult general and acute beds were occupied last week, with an average of 56,567 NHS staff off work sick every day.
  • There were 13,245 beds occupied by patients that were medically fit for discharge last week, up more than a quarter on the 10,509 beds occupied this time last year.
  • The number of adult beds closed due to norovirus was up more than a fifth on the first week of December, to a total of 457 (from 375).

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: ‘This huge increase in calls to NHS 111 is understandable with concerns about winter viruses – including strep A – a top priority for the public, but it is more important than ever that the public uses 111 online where possible to get important information about non-emergency health conditions and to be signposted to the best possible care.

‘With industrial action planned today and next week, NHS teams are working hard to minimise disruption and while people may see their local services impacted, they must continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency during strikes, as well as attending pre-booked appointments as planned unless they have been contacted for it be rearranged.’

There have been 15 confirmed deaths of children from strep A since September.

GP consultations for scarlet fever and disease notifications are rising more steeply than expected for this time of year as are cases of invasive group A streptococcus, although less pronounced, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned.  

The most recent update from the UK Health Security Agency show that up to from the middle of September to 11 December there have been 7,750 notifications of scarlet fever. This compares with an average of 2,040 for the same period over the past five years.

Levels being seen currently are much higher than normal for this time of year but weekly notifications remain lower than weekly totals seen during the normal February to March peak of the illness, the UKHSA report said.

But given the potential for severe presentations, it remains important that scarlet fever cases are treated promptly with antibiotics to limit further spread and reduce risk of potential complications in cases and their close contacts, officials said.

Yesterday, the Government attempted to ease related antibiotic shortages by adding amoxicillin, penicillin V, azithromycin and cefalexin onto the list of medicines subject to a band on exporting or hoarding.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Andrew Jackson 15 December, 2022 11:29 am

We have become a minor injuries unit for winter related illness in the space of 2 weeks with considerably reduced space for the other aspects of general practice.
It may or may not be useful to have access to some of the non clinical minor illness pathways that 111 use to see if they would be useful for our receptionists.
Are they available?

Patrufini Duffy 15 December, 2022 2:25 pm

Today’s GMC email completely misses the mark. At crisis point it psycho-manipulates you into an age old game. “How we treat ourselves and each other”. The spotlight remains on you, not them. It pushes you to be more, to heal yourself and be kind to yourself when others are not – to be that godly human that this country no longer seeks to care for in 2022. Supporting one another, when there is little honest support for you. That lie of speaking out when things go wrong. Huddling like chicks, propping each other up, to the mental slaughter and mind games. The rhetoric of manipulation and scapegoating finely tuned to keep you appeased has hit its peak thus far in 2022. They are all in on this. Playing your heartstrings and hoping you will fall for the perennial guilt trips. The narcissists took the money and set you up between them and the public. Medicine is politicised forever. People continue to die, directly or indirectly. And you remain their goat. Austerity 2.0 has triggered a fall in the institutes. *But, a new world is coming. It cannot be stopped. People are waking up. Staff are fed up of playing second game and the stupid card. They smell the stink everywhere and are striking. They are pulling back and seeing the ugly system and matrix of control where they are placed. Caring is a priceless commodity, use it wisely. You know your leaders are in on the game, the managed decline and orchestrated fragmentation and privatisation. There is no will to believe in you. You have to do it yourself. Position yourself and your weakened teams right in 2023. To those left in PCNs you are treading a dangerous path of easy dissolution. Merry Xmas and well done to all commentators for saying something.

Anonymous 18 December, 2022 12:25 am

111 are sending ambulances to sore throats.
Thankfully parents have some common sense and decline. On the flip side, most of these parents have a valid excuse just to turn up and completely clog the ED.
Not yet seen a pharmacist prescribing antibiotics on their own accord. Nobody wants to take the risk.