The latest NHS figures reveal that almost triple the number of patients were hospitalised in the UK with norovirus last week, compared with the same period last winter.

An average of 351 individuals with complaints of diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms were admitted each day last week, compared with 126 in the same period in 2022.

There was a notable rise in the number of children admitted with the virus, with 13 cases reported daily during the last week, compared with three in the corresponding period of last year.

The NHS has expanded its hospital capacity, with nearly 1,500 additional beds open now, bringing the total to 100,701, compared with 99,243 beds in the same week last year. Despite this, adult bed occupancy continues to be high at 95.3%, with over 1,200 more patients in adult general and acute beds last week, compared with the same period of November 2022.

Every day last week saw an average of 153 flu patients in general and acute hospital beds, with seven in critical care per day. A further 131 children with RSV were seen in hospital each day.

NHS stated that, for the first time this winter, there is a high level of demand in hospitals, with proof showing that staff are already facing winter pressures ahead of December.

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Although ambulance handover delays have reduced by more than a fifth, discharging patients into social and community care settings remains a challenge, according to the NHS.

The report also highlights that an average of 46,201 staff were off work per day last week, out of which 1,715 absences were due to Covid-19.

The NHS added that despite these challenges, it has set out winter preparedness plans earlier than before, which include the roll-out of care ‘traffic control’ centres, additional ambulances and beds, and virtual ward programmes to treat more people at home and alleviate pressure on hospitals.

NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: “We all know somebody who has had some kind of nasty winter virus in the last few weeks, and today’s data shows this is starting to trickle through to hospital admissions, with a much higher volume of norovirus cases compared to last year, and the continued impact of infections like flu and RSV in children on hospital capacity- all likely to be exacerbated by this week’s cold weather.

“The measures we set out in our urgent and emergency care recovery plan and winter preparations earlier this year are clearly having an impact and, thanks to the incredibly hard work of staff, there has been a significant reduction in ambulance handover delays despite higher demand, almost twice the number of 111 calls being answered in a minute, and almost 1,500 more general and acute hospital beds open compared to the same time last year.”