A TOP doctor has issued an urgent appeal over the flu crisis sweeping the country.
Dr Nigel Watson is the chief executive of the Wessex Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Bath and north-east Somerset.
He said that there is a ‘serious threat that we face with the rising number of cases of influenza’ and that it risks not only people’s health but will stretch the NHS as well.
Dr Watson, who is a GP in the New Forest, said in a letter: ‘The number of people presenting to general practice and hospital accident and emergency departments continues to increase significantly week by week.
‘In addition to this, the strain of flu this year is more severe than normal, this means that the number of people who are catching it is greater than most years, the symptoms are more severe and the complications such as chest infections, pneumonia and even rarely fatalities are more common than an average year.
‘General practice will have limited stocks of flu vaccine left and we are being asked by the medical director of the NHS to use these stocks to vaccinate the eligible patients within the next two weeks.’
People classed as vulnerable to flu – and therefore eligible for a free vaccine – include: all those who are aged 65 or over; people with diabetes; patients with a respiratory disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; people with chronic kidney disease; heart disease; those who have heart failure, had an heart attack or have suffered a stroke; pregnant women; and carers.
He added: ‘It is alarming that over three million people in these at risk groups have not yet been vaccinated yet could clearly benefit.’
Dr Watson said he had heard many excuses as to why people had not taken up a vaccine, such as having caught flu from a previous vaccination, or having an inoculation but catching flu anyway, but said these were not sufficient reasons to miss a vaccine.
He added: ‘The benefits far outweigh and risks.’