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The primary care nurse’s guide to winter respiratory disease

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Flu season can lead to hundreds of thousands of ex Flu season can lead to hundreds of thousands of extra primary care consultations every year

The winter months bring with them a surge in respiratory illnesses and inevitable increase in demand for health services. For example, unplanned hospital admissions due to respiratory illnesses double during the winter time and there is a 10 % increase in primary care respiratory consultations for each 1 degree drop in temperature below 5C.1

This increased pressure on health service providers is challenging in terms of managing capacity however it is also largely predictable. There must then be an overwhelming case for a pro-active approach to managing respiratory illness in a manner that reduces or mitigates the effects of acute illness and the associated health service demand.

Even taking into account the promised NHS investment of and extra 3.5% funding in real terms over the next few years it will be difficult for both primary and secondary care providers to deliver services that meet the needs of their patients and demands of commissioners and regulators.

Seasonal flu

The highest influenza infection rates occur between December and Marchh peaking in the early weeks of the new year. There are three main classifications of influenza, Type A, B and C. Type A flu represents the greatest concern. It can cause serious illness and leads to international pandemics. Type C flu causes mild illness and whilst type B flu can cause serious illness it does not lead to international pandemics.2

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