Flu crisis hits cancer surgery: Hospitals struggle to cope as deaths rise and Britain teeters on the brink of an epidemic
By Sophie Borland
27th December 2010
Vital cancer operations are being cancelled as hospitals struggle to cope with soaring numbers of flu victims.
Trusts have begun postponing major surgery because intensive care beds that cancer patients might need for post-operative recovery are being kept free to accommodate critically ill patients struck down by the flu virus.
Experts predict that Britain is on course for the first flu epidemic in over a decade after the number of cases more than doubled in the past week.
They say rates are rising faster than during December 1999, which marked the start of an outbreak which claimed more than 22,000 lives and brought the NHS to its knees.
There are now 460 people in intensive care, taking up around one in seven beds, up from 182 last week.
Professor John Oxford, a virologist and influenza expert at St Barts and the London Hospital, said the situation was still deteriorating and added: ‘I would not be surprised if we get to epidemic levels within one week.’