A NEW strain of flu could strike thousands of elderly people, under-pressure hospitals fear as the NHS prepares for winter.
Hospitals are concerned they will be unable to cope amid fears an aggressive strain of flu could hit Britain.
And patients could be turned away from hospitals as NHS trusts struggle with under-staffing issues.
The new health crisis could break out this winter with a number of hospitals surveyed by the Daily Mail sayingthey were so short-staffed to take on any extra patients, with some desperately looking for more nurses abroad.
One health trust said it has “significant concern for patient safety” this winter, while nine out of ten hospital bosses are “concerned” they will not be able to cope, the NHS revealed yesterday.
More than half said they are “extremely concerned” by the prospect of a health crisis, which would primarily affect the elderly population.
Another even said patients arriving at A&E with the flu will be checked to see if they are sufficiently ill.
Hospitals in Bath, Northampton and Cambridge have recently issued “black alerts” - the most serious warning - as they ran out of beds.
A particularly aggressive strain of flu, called H3N2, has recently caused the worst outbreaks of the illness in Australia and New Zealand for 50 years.
The UK could be the next country affected, NHS England has warned, and at least seven British hospitals have treated patients with the illness.
Sir Malcolm Grant, the chairman of NHS England, said the service is now “more scared than we have ever been” about a flu epidemic.