College Chair responds to UKHSA data on whooping cough

College Chair Kamila Hawthorne responds to the latest data from the UKHSA which confirms an increase in the number of whooping cough cases in March, bringing the total number in 2024 to 2,793. 

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is highly concerning that such a high number of whooping cough cases have been confirmed by the UKHSA. While whooping cough – or pertussis - will be an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience for most patients, causing restless nights and leaving those affected with a shortness of breath, for some, it can be far more serious, as this data shows. 

"Patients who may be more vulnerable, for example, if they have a weakened immune system, are very young or elderly, can experience serious symptoms as a result of contracting whooping cough, including breathing difficulties, rib fractures, vomiting and gastric distress, due to heavy prolonged coughing. 

"Whooping cough is preventable with vaccination, so this outbreak shows once again the paramount importance of engaging with vaccination programmes - they're in place for everyone's safety. We would urge all parents to check their children's vaccinations - and their own - are up-to-date, and if they're not, to make an appointment as soon as possible. It is also important for pregnant mothers to check their vaccination status and get vaccinated if they have not been immunised. 

“If you, or a member of your family, does exhibit symptoms of whooping cough - especially a heavy wheezing cough that disrupts sleep, or a change in the colour of the face - then seek medical assistance.” 

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 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.