Alder Hey’s chief nurse sends urgent message to parents as severe flu outbreak takes over hospitals in England

Flu hospitalisations are on the rise and there has been a surge of serious flu cases among under-fives.

New figures show England is facing a severe flu outbreak, with the number of patients in hospitals almost trebling in the last fortnight.

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, has warned that the health service is facing “enourmous pressure” and noted the impact of strike action, staff sickness and flu hospitalisations.

There also has been a surge of serious flu cases among under-fives in the North West, and Chief Nurse at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Nathan Askew, is urging parents and guardians of young children to “keep us all safe this winter by getting your children vaccinated.”

Flu cases in children

Across England, hospitalisations in young children are over 44% higher than the last pre-pandemic year (2019/20), with around 650 children under five in hospital with flu this week compared to around 450 at the same time in 2019/20. This time last year there were less than 20 children in hospital with flu.

Mr Askew said: “We have seen a rising number of young children with flu recently and children under five are most likely to be hospitalised with flu. They are also ‘super-spreaders’, which means they can pass it on really easily to other members of the family, especially those who are vulnerable.”

According to Aldery Hey Children’s Hospital, the flu vaccine can protect young children from getting seriously ill and ending up in hospital. For most children aged two to three, it is a quick and painless spray up the nose which is administered in a GP surgery. If the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them, they will be offered a flu vaccine injection instead.

Hospital flu admissions in England

Data published on Thursday December 22 show there were an average of 2,088 beds taken up by flu patients each day last week across England., including 149 in critical care beds. This is nearly three times the number two weeks before, when the daily average stood at 772.

Figures for the same time last year show the NHS only had two flu patients a day in critical care and 32 in general and acute beds.

Chief Nurse at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Nathan Askew.
Chief Nurse at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Nathan Askew.
Chief Nurse at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Nathan Askew.

Hospital flu admissions in Merseyside

Alder Hey Children’s Hopsital: The latest data (December 12-18) shows an average of 13 beds taken by flu patients each day. The average for November 28 - December 4 was five flu patients, showing an increase of 160%.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: The latest data (December 12-18) shows an average of 25 beds taken by flu patients each day. The average for November 28 - December 4 was 14 flu patients, showing an increase of 78%.

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: The latest data (December 12-18) shows an average of 30 beds taken by flu patients each day. The average for November 28 - December 4 was nine flu patients, showing an increase of 233%.

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust have no beds taken by flu patients.

To combat the rising number of flu hospitalisations, Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.” He also reminds the public to use NHS services wisely as strike action is set to continue in the new year.