Winter illnesses like flu and norovirus are on the rise across Surrey and South West London – and hospitals are facing extreme pressures as a result.

Every winter is challenging for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group – and for the wider NHS – but this year could be one of the busiest yet. With more poorly people coming to the hospital Group’s three emergency departments with winter bugs and viruses this week and over the weekend, it’s encouraging people to use NHS services wisely.

Dr Richard Jennings, Group Chief Medical Officer for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier hospitals, said: “Our three emergency departments are responding to very high demand at a time when our three hospitals are very full. In particular we are seeing an increase in people coming to our hospitals with norovirus and flu – both of which can make vulnerable people very poorly.

“After very high summer attendances in our emergency departments, hospitals have remained extremely busy with sick people needing our care.

“So – while all our doctors, nurses and other colleagues work hard to get everyone well again and discharged home – you can support your local NHS by getting vaccinated against flu and Covid. And, if you need health care advice when it’s less urgent, please use NHS 111 online.”

Going to an emergency department when it’s less urgent doesn’t mean you will be seen more quickly – and you may be redirected elsewhere. Using the right service for your healthcare needs allows hospitals to prioritise the sickest and most seriously ill patients.

NHS 111 online is a 24/7 service that can direct you where to go when your healthcare need is less urgent. Pharmacies, meanwhile, can help with milder illnesses like colds and coughs.

But if it is an emergency or life-threatening, you should always dial 999 or go to an emergency department.

There are also steps you can take to keep yourself and others well this winter. Getting your vaccines is the best way to protect yourself and others. You can find out how to book your jabs here:

Some people are more vulnerable to colder weather – including those aged 65 and over, babies and young children, and those with long-term conditions. As temperatures drop, remember they may need extra support, and take the time to look in on vulnerable family, friends, and neighbours.