Date of release: 29 December 2022
Patients with flu are being hospitalised in increasing numbers across the Black Country prompting health chiefs to urge people to take up their vaccinations to better protect themselves against the virus.
Some patients are so poorly that they are on ventilators in critical care – particularly those with underlying health conditions who are more likely to develop complications. The infection can be fatal and each year across the UK flu and pneumonia kill around 30,000 people.
For those who have diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) catching the flu puts them at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill. Those with severe mental illness are also at similar risk.
Vaccinations are offered free to people with these conditions as well as families of those who are immunosuppressed who need protection from the virus.
Some patients with flu will need to be admitted to hospital. Patients being cared for at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust have shared their experiences to raise awareness of how debilitating flu can be and to encourage people to have their vaccinations.
Director of Nursing at Wolverhampton, Debra Hickman, and Director of Nursing at Walsall, Lisa Carroll, said: “Flu is so much more than feeling rotten with a cough and a cold – our patients will tell you just how serious it can be.
“Many of them would never have expected to end up in hospital with this virus but that is exactly what can happen. And for those who have not been vaccinated, the consequences can be devastating. We have patients with underlying health conditions who have had to be ventilated in critical care because they are so seriously ill. Flu can kill people and its potential effects should never be underestimated.
“We have seen many people whose Christmas has been spoilt this year because they have become so poorly and the last thing anyone wants is to be in hospital at what is often a special time for families and friends.”
Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: "It’s vital that everyone prepares for potential winter illnesses, especially those who are at higher risk.
“Getting vaccinated helps you and the NHS, which is already facing extreme pressures in the very busy winter season. That’s why we’re urging all those eligible for a flu vaccine to come forward as soon as possible.”
“Absolutely debilitating” – Linda’s flu story
Cannock grandmother Linda Matthews developed a persistent cough in early November - after a month and treatment for a potential chest infection her symptoms were no better.
The 67-year-old also started to feel extremely tired and unwell and after another visit to her GP she was advised to attend New Cross Hospital’s Emergency Department. From there she was admitted to a dedicated flu ward at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.
Her blood oxygen level was low and tiredness hit her in a way that meant she was “unable to pick up an empty shopping bag.” She was breathless, developed a crackling sound in her lungs and tested positive for flu.
Linda lives with fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, so for 20 years has made a conscious effort to have her annual flu vaccine from her GP. She wants to protect herself as her condition makes her susceptible to severe illness. She’s never had flu before but described her recent bout as “absolutely debilitating.”
Now recovering at home under the guidance of the clinical team, she spent five days in hospital and had to miss her family Christmas lunch.
She said¨ “It’s been very hard without my loved ones around me – and I was supposed to be cooking the Christmas dinner so I’ve got my family to thank for sorting it all out whilst I’ve been away. I’m looking forward to seeing them all and giving my three-year-old granddaughter her presents!”
She added: “There’s no way I could say no to the flu vaccine, even after having flu itself, because it’s not worth thinking about how bad it could have been if I hadn’t had the vaccine. This has knocked me off my feet!”
“I would recommend the flu jab to others.” The free flu vaccine is given to people who:
- are aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if they get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- are frontline health workers
- are social care workers who cannot get the vaccine through an occupational health scheme at work
In addition, all primary school children and some secondary school children, as well as youngsters aged two or three, can get a free nasal spray flu vaccine.
To find out more about flu vaccination and where to get it, visit NHS - Flu Vaccine and remember that vaccination protection wears off over time which is why it is important to stay up to date.