Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The latest data from our Research and Surveillance Centre (until 31 December 2017) is showing that more patients are presenting to GP practices with flu-like symptoms than earlier in 2017. Whilst this is currently within seasonally-expected levels, we are also hearing anecdotal reports of increased demand at surgeries this week.
“The entire NHS is currently facing intense winter pressures and NHS staff in all areas of the service are working incredibly hard to deliver the best care possible for their patients.
“GP practices across the country have been working hard to put measures in place to cope with the anticipated increase in influenza, as well as other conditions, such as respiratory conditions and norovirus, this winter. These have included running additional surgeries, including in the evenings and at weekends, to release capacity to deliver more urgent care for patients.
“Although we are reaching peak flu season, we want to reassure patients that the influenza vaccine remains the best protection against flu this winter period. It is not too late for patients to receive their vaccination, and we would encourage patients, particularly those in an at-risk group, such as those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, to have a flu jab from their GP practice or pharmacist.
“For patients who fall ill with minor conditions this winter, we would repeat our ‘3 before GP’ calls for them to consider whether self-care, searching for information on NHS Choices, or seeking advice from a pharmacist, are appropriate options before making a GP appointment. This would help to free up GPs’ time to see patients who are seriously ill at this incredibly busy time of the year.”