Pressure ‘easing’ on busy A&E units
Pressures on busy A&E units have begun to ease in England, but hospitals still remain over-crowded, NHS figures show.
Latest weekly data up to last Sunday showed the number of times ambulances have been delayed waiting outside A&E fell by nearly a quarter to 12,500.
Bed closures due to the vomiting bug norovirus have also fallen.
But NHS England warned the cold snap expected to hit the north of England over the next few days could lead to an increase in illnesses.
The North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber have been put on the second highest level of alert with icy conditions and heavy snow forecast up to Sunday.
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The warning comes as hospitals remain incredibly busy despite the slight easing in pressures.
Bed occupancy levels remain well above the safe level of 85%. Last week an average of 95% was seen.
But the fall in ambulance delays and norovirus at least offers some hope to hospitals that the worst of winter may be behind them.
An NHS England spokesman said: "Today's figures show pressures abating somewhat compared to the prior week and with hospitals generally continuing to cope."
However, he said the high levels of flu circulating remained a concern.
The latest figures on flu are due out on Thursday afternoon. Last week's data showed flu in the community, and the level of hospital admissions, were at their highest level since 2011.