Scotland’s weekly flu deaths reach highest level in 20 years

Posted: 20th January 2023


Weekly flu deaths in Scotland have reached their highest level in more than 20 years, according to official figures.

National Records of Scotland reports that there were 121 deaths last week where flu was mentioned on the death certificate, up from 91 the previous week.

There has also been an increase in deaths where Covid was a cause.

The total last week was 101, with 84 deaths the previous week.

The number of deaths in Scotland from all causes last week was 2020, which NRS said was 29% more than the five-year average.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at NRS, said: “Deaths involving influenza have risen in recent weeks.

“There were 121 deaths where influenza was mentioned on the death certificate, up from 91 in the previous week.

“This is the highest weekly number of flu deaths registered in over 20 years.”

Unprecedented pressures

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live programme the flu figure was “sobering” but added that flu was now at a moderate level in Scotland.

“The highest number of deaths in over 20 years – a lot of that will be because we’ve seen so much flu,” she said. “It’s a small percentage but a very high number of people who were affected with flu.

“It’s on the back of an extraordinary surge of flu incidents in the December period.

“Thankfully incidents of flu have come down. It’s now at moderate levels in Scotland which is very welcome. But we are seeing the effect of that surge translate now into deaths.

“Every one of those could have been considered to be an avoidable death.”

Ms Evans said the Covid figures were also the result of an earlier surge.

“We know that there’s a lag,” she told the programme. “The numbers are high – and higher than last week – but we should start to see a stabilisation in deaths.

“But also, thankfully, incidents of Covid in the community are starting to come down too.”

She said the number of people being vaccinated against flu and Covid had slowed down considerably and reminded people it was never too late to get a flu vaccination.

“I think vaccination is something we can all do,” she said. “Let’s not forget the deaths from Covid [at the beginning of the pandemic] and how vaccination has made such an impact on that.”

She added: “All the respiratory illness that we’re seeing and people that are still in hospital just adds another layer to very busy hospitals.

“We’re not out of the woods as far is winter is concerned and I suspect we’ll not be out of the woods for several weeks yet.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This year we have seen an extraordinary number of flu cases. Safe, effective vaccines for offer the best protection to those most at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 and flu and I would urge anyone eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Uptake for the winter vaccine programme is very encouraging with Scotland delivering more Covid jabs per head of the population among over-50’s than any other UK nation. However, although uptake is high, there is no room for complacency.”

The figures come 10 days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish hospitals were almost full as she acknowledged that the NHS was facing unprecedented pressures.

She said the increase in winter viruses, including flu, had played a part, along with backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic and Brexit-related staff shortages.

Meanwhile, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland, Dr Iain Kennedy has warned that the NHS in Scotland is “broken” and cannot survive in its current form.

He called for a “national conversation” on the future of the health service.

Source: BBC NEWS

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