A severe flu outbreak or new coronavirus variant could prove catastrophic for a health service already on its knees
In the past two and half years our health service has endured a global pandemic, staff shortages, terrible ambulance queues, long-waiting lists and a social care crisis; and we are now again seeing warnings of severe pressures in the NHS in the coming winter season. But the truth is that we are confronted by even more uncertainty than usual about the scale of “winter pressures” that we will face.
The excess emergency admissions in a normal winter are largely driven by viral respiratory illnesses in the colder months, and the three prominent winter viruses that are a concern now are influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus, a cold-like virus that can cause serious illness in some cases) and Covid-19. What we mean by “winter pressure” is large numbers of vulnerable people, particularly elderly people, getting one of these viral infections on top of pre-existing health conditions, or the frailty of old age, and ending up in hospital – so that the system grinds to a halt.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard was chief investigator of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trials and is director of the Oxford Vaccine Group
Read the original article at The Guardian