Flu rates 'levelling off' for the moment show RCGP figures

Publication date: 25 January 2018

More than an estimated 31,500 patients presented with influenza-like-illness (ILI) in general practice in England between 15-21 January this year, the latest figures from the Royal College of GPs' Research and Surveillance Centre show.

The rate of presentations of ILI in general practice largely remains unchanged across England rising by just over 1,000 consultations from 53.1 per 100,000 population in the second week of the year to 54.1 per 100,000 population in the third.

Broken down by region, presentations of ILI:

  • in the South region increased from 54.3 to 59.6 per 100,000 population
  • in London increased from 42.1 to 44.9 per 100,000 population
  • in the North region decreased from 57.3 to 54.9 per 100,000 population
  • in the Midlands and East region decreased from 57.9 to 53.6 per 100,000 population 

Nationally, presentations of Acute Bronchitis, Common Cold and Respiratory System Diseases in general practice also remained largely unchanged. Presentations of Asthma increased slightly from 17.7 per 100,000 population to 20.8 per 100,000 population.

Commenting on the new figures, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Whilst influenza rates have levelled out for now, this means that there are still huge numbers of patients being seen in general practice with flu and other common winter conditions – and GPs and our teams are certainly feeling the pressure.

"If patients have flu, the best thing to do is get lots of rest, and take in lots of fluids as it is easy to become dehydrated. Where possible, we would encourage patients not to mix with other people, particularly elderly or other 'at-risk' people, such as pregnant women, to try to avoid spreading the virus further.

"Whilst there is no cure, the best advice is to maintain good hygienic practices, such as washing your hands regularly and throwing tissues away as soon as you use them. Paracetamol or ibuprofen, if appropriate, can be used to manage fevers or muscle aches – and there are numerous over the counter remedies available that can ease symptoms.

"We continue to urge patients who are ill to think hard about whether they do need to see a GP – not just in terms of reducing pressures on the NHS, but to minimise the possibility of passing viruses, such as flu, to others.

"The College's '3 before GP' advice asks patients whether self-care is an option in the first instance; whether advice from a reputable online UK source, such as NHS Choices, could help; or whether they could seek advice from a pharmacist, before booking an appointment with their GP."

Professor Simon de Lusignan, Medical Director for the RCGP’s Research and Surveillance Centre, said: "Today's figures show that rates of ILI presentations in general practice have flattened off, but they do remain above what we term the ‘medium’ threshold overall, and rates in over 65-year-old patients remain above the 'very high' threshold.

"We're certainly not out of the woods yet this flu season as the influenza virus is incredibly unpredictable. It is quite possible that rates will rise again, although they may continue to level out or even decline."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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