Deaths in England and Wales are 20% higher than the five-year average for this time of year, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Figures up to the 23 December show 14,530 deaths registered, which is 20.7% above the past five years or 2,493 excess deaths, the ONS reported.

NHS England said the number of flu cases in hospital jumped by 47% last week with more than 5,100 patients admitted.

In addition, the number of Covid patients in hospital rose by 1,200 in the week up to New Year’s Day.

NHS 111 answered the second highest number of calls at levels not seen since the start of the Covid pandemic, figures show.

In total 410,618 calls were taken by NHS 111 compared with 365,258 in the same period last year.

Health service leaders said 13,000 beds were still being taken up by patients who were medically fit to be discharged.

Pressure on ambulance services leading to long waits has left GPs having to transfer patients themselves or provide interim care for seriously ill patients having to wait many hours, Pulse reported.

While Strep A infections and scarlet fever remain at higher than normal levels with 29 deaths so far this season in children, according to recent  figures.

The latest respiratory surveillance report from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests that Covid and flu activity may have started to decrease but the Christmas and New Year period may have impacted reporting so figures have to be interpreted with caution.

Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:

‘In the week leading up to Christmas, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with flu, with the highest levels of hospital admissions we’ve seen in at least a decade.

‘Admissions were particularly high in the under 5s and those 65 and over.’

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: ‘We knew this winter would be one of the most difficult in the history of the NHS and I want to thank staff for all their hard work in caring for and treating so many patients while dealing with record demand on services, including the enormous pressure from flu and Covid.’

A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication, Pulse.