GP fears double whammy of Covid and flu could push NHS to brink

Shirley P. Olin

BBC Breakfast discusses potential effect flu jab delays



The number of daily Covid infections has risen in the past month as the UK attempts to resume some form of pre-pandemic life. Data published on Thursday shows more than 36,400 people across the nation have tested positive for coronavirus, up on figures at the start of September. The R value for Covid is presently estimated to be between 0.8 and 1.1, which could have potentially grim repercussions this winter.

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The R value represents the virus’s potential reproduction rate, meaning every 10 infected people are likely to infect another eight to 11.

The widespread rollout of vaccines has been the one saving grace in recent months, as they have helped to prevent an uptick in hospitalisations.

More than 81 percent of UK adults have now received a vaccine against COVID-19, but it remains to be seen whether long-term resistance and immunity holds up.

British epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector has recently warned this could lead to a full-blown “winter crisis”, urging people to exercise caution in the weeks and months ahead.

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Elderly woman feeling the cold

Elderly woman feeling the cold

Side effects of the flu vaccine

Side effects of the flu vaccine

And Covid is not the only danger lurking just around the corner.

Coming out of lockdown, health experts suspect the NHS could soon see an uptick in flu infections.

This could, in part, be the result of reduced herd immunity as a consequence of lockdowns and social distancing.

The UK has also experienced a gas crisis last month, which paired with similar trouble in Europe, paints a worrying picture for the months ahead.

Should gas supplies plummet and energy bills skyrocket again, many families might be left without ways to heat their homes this winter.

Dr Earim Chaudry, Medical Director of men’s health platform Manual, believes this is a potential problem that needs to be addressed publically.

He told “As temperatures drop and people aren’t heating their homes, they are much more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses and general illnesses.

“Especially if you are elderly and you feel you don’t have the financial means to heat your home, there is a worry in those who have significant conditions like COPD and breathing problems, which tend to exacerbate in the colder temperatures, that they will have a negative impact on health.

“We already know that when we live in homes, which have mould and spores and are poorly ventilated, that we see spikes in asthmatics and flare-ups in conditions there.

“So it’s not going to help and it’s not going to be healthy for people to be sitting there in the cold, especially if you are cold and vulnerable.

“I don’t think it’s anything that’s getting a significant amount of press at all.”

As a result of the UK’s gas woes, a total of nine small energy suppliers were forced to shut down, forcing customers to switch providers.


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And the vast majority of households in the UK are still being heated by gas boilers.

If worst comes to worst, Dr Chaudry suggested there are a few things you can do to try and stay healthy this winter.

If you are struggling to keep your house warm, you will want to find one room that is best insulated from the cold.

Stockpile all the blankets you can find and wear multiple layers of clothes as these are your best bet at retaining heat.

Drink plenty of warm liquids and, if at all possible, huddle around a space heater or wood-burning stove.

Heading into the winter period, Dr Chaudry said there is some trepidation about what the cold weather will bring for the NHS.

Some of his colleagues are already getting ready for the “expected peak” in illnesses that this time of the year brings.

He said: “Health professionals are always there and available, and it’s just a case of what else impacts the healthcare system at the same time.

“So if you have Covid and you have flu and you have health problems caused by poor heating, then the volumes can increase.

“I know that my GP colleagues are certainly feeling under caution in terms of the volumes coming through.”

Ultimately, it’s a matter of whether the NHS will have the capacity to deal with any spikes.

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