A projected rise in the number of people with swine flu to 100,000 a day by late August could cause a crisis for the NHS, a Newcastle-based GP told Socialist Worker.
“Britain has some of the highest bed occupancy rates in Europe,” he says.
“That means in winter, when our seasonal flu reaches its height, it is common for hospitals to be closed to acute admissions.
“But a month ago doctors in the north east were already getting warnings that wards in local hospitals were full – that’s before any significant rise in the number of flu cases.
“There is so little spare capacity in the system that any sudden increase in the number of patients requiring admission to hospital could lead to the system being overrun.”
And it’s not just hospitals that will be affected.
“Many inner-city doctors’ surgeries already have too many patients on their lists.
“When hospitals are under pressure, some of it is passed back to us – and there’s no way that we can just shut up shop.”
Health professionals have for many years predicted that Britain is due a seasonal flu epidemic.
Any sensible health system would take account of that by raising capacity.
Unfortunately, under New Labour, an empty bed is regarded as a sign of inefficiency.