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Flu consultations fall in England, but rise in devolved nations

GP consultations and calls to NHS Direct regarding flu fell in England over the New Year period, but increased in the devolved nations, official figures show.

The Health Protection Agency said GP consultation rates have decreased slightly from 32.7 per 100,000 in the last week of 2012 to 29.2 on the first week of 2013, though experts warn this could be due to GP practices being closed on bank holidays.

Meanwhile, 2% of the calls received by NHS Direct concerned flu, compared with 2.1% in the previous week.

The weekly primary care consultation rate decreased in England to 29.2 per 100,000, but increased in Wales to 33.0 per 100,000. In Scotland and Northern Ireland consultation rates were 46.3 per 100,000 and 87.0 per 100,000, respectively.

Dr Richard Peabody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA, said the decrease in England could be down to surgeries only being open for four days due to the bank holiday.

He said: ‘The flu activity has remained similar to last week across several of our indicators in line with the trend we expect to see at this time of year.

‘However, the latest data should be interpreted with caution due to GP practices being closed on the bank holidays which may have impacted on GP consultation rates.

‘It still remains very important that everyone does their best to prevent the spread of the flu virus by maintaining good cough and hand hygiene.’