Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 10:04 GMT
Lorry mortuary at flu hospital
The lorry, which is being hired on a weekly basis
A hospital has been forced to hire a refrigerated lorry as a temporary mortuary as an outbreak of flu brings the health service to crisis point.
The trailer has room for 36 bodies and is parked next to the existing 80-body mortuary at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in Norwich.
The flu crisis had brought the death toll at the hospital to unexpected levels.
A hospital spokesman said emergency admissions were up 50% on last year, and fewer burials and cremations over Christmas and the New Year had created a body jam.
Although it is not the worst flu outbreak the area has seen, it is the highest death rate, a local coroner said.
The outbreak has hit health services hard across the country, with staff illnesses contributing to the strain.
North West England: Ambulance services severely stretched by a huge number of flu cases over the past two weeks, hospitals overwhelmed by flu-related cases.
North West region ambulance services spokesman Hugh Lamont said: "Ambulances in the Greater Manchester and Mersey region were each dealing with more than 1,000 calls every day, which is almost twice what they would have expected."
He said that in one day GPs who were on call in Merseyside, and who would normally receive 1,200 calls a month, received 1,000 calls in just one day.
"The system was overrun. The next stage for people was to dial 999 and call an ambulance," he said.
Dr Stephen Atherton, a consultant at Whiston Hospital, Greater Manchester, reported 100 cases of viral pneumonia in one week - three times as many as he had seen in any other week of his 28-year career.
North East England: Wards re-opened, doctors complain of heavy workload, routine operations cancelled.
At Ryhope Hospital in Sunderland, managers had to open a ward to deal with patients transferred from the city's main Royal Hospital suffering from flu-related illness.
Dr Colin Waine, head of Sunderland Health Authority, said: "When you add the flu epidemic the workload is quite tremendous.
"The epidemic has placed considerable demands on all aspects of medical care."
A spokeswoman for South Tees Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We are cancelling all non-urgent surgery for the rest of the week because of the unprecedented level of emergency admissions."
Yorkshire: Routine operations cancelled, people advised to stay at home with flu as services overstretched.
Dr Chris Worth at Calderdale and Kirklees Health Authority said non-urgent surgical operations would continue to be cancelled for at least the next 10 days.
Rotherham District General Hospital reported waiting times of up to seven hours during their busiest period.
West Midlands: Flu has spread across the region, ambulance services struggling, operations cancelled. One hospital had to close casualty.
A spokesman for Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital said: "Staff have been working double shifts, 16 hours at a time throughout the Christmas and New Year period."
He said surgical operations had been cancelled and health bosses were forced to set up contingency plans to deal with the influx of patients.
The nearby Walsall Manor Hospital, which had to close its accident and emergency department for a time over the weekend, treated a total of 278 emergency admissions over a four-day period last week, an increase of 100 on the same week in the previous year.
North Wales: Increased admissions, nurses' leave cancelled.
A spokesman for Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor said there were 120 more emergency admissions last week than usual.
He said: "We have brought in extra staff and cancelled nurses' leave and we are trying everything to keep going."
South Wales: Non-urgent surgery cancelled, admissions 50% above normal.
Almost 50 patients were admitted there as emergency cases on Monday.
Routine operations have also been suspended at Morriston Hospital, Swansea. Managers at East Glamorgan Hospital, near Pontypridd, said admissions were currently 50% above normal.
Newport's Royal Gwent Hospital was reported to be looking for extra bed space while Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth, had only two unoccupied beds today.
South West England: Under pressure but coping.
A spokeswoman for Avon Health Authority said doctors have so far seen a normal "seasonal increase" in the number of patients suffering the symptoms of flu.
In Wiltshire, health officials say they have also seen a small rise in flu cases.
Most people coming into hospital there are suffering respiratory or flu-like symptoms.
London: Preparing for the worst, lack of intensive care beds.
Geoff Martin, campaigns director for the pressure group London Health Emergency, said: "This flu epidemic is the last thing London needs at the moment and will pile pressure on to services that are already struggling to cope."
During the weekend no intensive care beds were available within the M25 area, and patients were being farmed out as far as Derby, he said.
"The current epidemic is the worst in 10 years," he said.
Scotland: Decline in the number of flu cases.
A spokesman for Lothian Health Board, which covers the Edinburgh area, said the number of people admitted to hospital with flu had gone down over the Christmas period.