Birmingham’s out of hours GP service has battled through its busiest day in the past 12 years as unprecedented numbers of patients put pressure on health services.
The NHS are being pushed to the limit by winter bugs and a particularly virulent flu-like illness sweeping the region over the past two weeks.
But latest figures show Saturday was the busiest day of the year so far for doctors, nurses and paramedics and the worst for more than a decade at the Badger out of hours service.
Emergency staff at one of the Badger centres, which are based across Birmingham and handle calls for GPs at night when surgeries are closed, dealt with 2,183 calls in just 24 hours.
While West Midlands Ambulance Service’s control room in Brierley Hill took 650 more 999 calls than normal with a total of 2,146 throughout Saturday and the minor injuries unit at Cannock Chase Hospital was inundated with patients, seeing an average of 43 people a day.
Dr Patrick Brooke, medical director for Solihull NHS Care Trust, said: “Winter always brings a seasonal round of colds, flu and other ailments.
“One of the main problems recently is a flu-like illness causing respiratory problems, sickness and diarrhoea. This has hit older people particularly hard. While NHS staff are always there to help, there is a lot people can do for themselves and their families to avoid becoming ill or having accidents.
“GPs and community services staff have made a concerted effort to deal with the high level of demand and help to relieve the pressure.”
Health chiefs are urging people to think twice before making an emergency 999 call and not divert ambulances unnecessarily for minor injuries.
Dr Chris Turner, accident and emergency consultant for Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Nobody wants to end up being rushed into A&E especially at Christmas.
“While we are always there to help, we would much rather people stayed safe and healthy in their own homes.
“Some of these visits are avoidable.”