At a time when at-risk patients are being advised to go and get a flu jab amid the worst outbreak of the virus in the UK for seven years, a new survey has revealed that some GP practices are running out of flu vaccines.
Fuelled by killer “Aussie” and “Japanese” strains, the UK is currently gripped by a flu outbreak that has already claimed the lives of 149 people and left over 4,500 hospitalised (at time of writing). The outbreak is so bad that high-risk patients – the elderly, young children and pregnant women – are being repeatedly advised to get vaccinated.
However, new data from a Pulse poll of 400 doctors has found one in three GP surgeries have either run out of the flu vaccine already or their stocks are running low.
The findings come in the wake of another survey that revealed how high street pharmacies are also running low on the flu vaccine. It is thought that around 10 Boots stores temporarily ran out of flu jabs in mid-January when fears of the virus were at their highest.
According to the figures from Pulse, one in 10 GP practices have already run out of flu vaccines and 20% are running low, which isn’t that surprising when you consider some have already used 100 more than last year.
Some GP surgeries even said they have had to “borrow” vaccines from other practices, while others were resorting to buying additional shots from nearby surgeries.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said this flu season has been a lot tougher than most so far.
“We’re coming to the end of the flu vaccination season now, but for the next week or so we would encourage patients who are in at-risk groups, such as those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, who haven’t yet had their flu jab to get one,” she said.
Just How Bad Is The Outbreak?
Figures show that this year’s flu season has seen the number of cases reach their worst levels since 2010/11. In fact, the number of people visiting their GP during the second week of January with flu-like symptoms was three times higher than the high point last winter. Furthermore, it’s more than double the expected rate for this period.
Compared to the first week of January, the GP consultation rate for patients with flu-like symptoms in the second week rose by 42%.
While wintertime always adds additional pressure to the health service, the impact this year has been particularly heavy, exacerbating the conditions patients are experiencing at a time when the NHS is already over-stretched.
Even though the end of the flu vaccination season is almost upon us, the fact many GP practices have already run out of flu shots is a sobering reminder of how over-stretched health services in the UK have become.
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