EXTRA health checks for the elderly have been announced as new figures reveal the county is one of the worst hit by a surge in flu cases.

Data released by government body Public Health England on Thursday showed Oxfordshire currently has almost double the average number of patients seen by a GP presenting flu-like symptoms.

In the first week of January, 71.7 patients per 100,000 were suffering from the illness, compared with just 31.7 per cent nationally.

With those over 65 some of the most vulnerable, Oxfordshire County Council yesterday announced adult social care commissioners would be writing to managers of residential care homes to encourage them to ensure that GPs visit to vaccinate all residents.

Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “Public Health and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group have been working with local GPs and pharmacists to ensure that they can provide a domiciliary visit and to take the opportunity to extend the offer of a vaccination to staff at the same time.”

He added: “We have been preparing for some weeks along with the NHS and social care providers to ensure that as many of the staff in Oxfordshire and the vulnerable people they care for took up the offer of a free flu vaccination.”

The authority will also be working with Public Health England on their 'Catch it. Bin it. Kill it' campaign to make sure the message of limiting the virus is spread throughout Oxfordshire.

It comes as A&E departments have struggled to cope with an increase in use over the Christmas period.

Last week Paul Brennan, director of clinical services at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) confirmed the John Radcliffe Hospital’s and Horton General Hospital’s emergency departments were operating at the highest possible alert, and admitted a rise in flu cases at A&E had contributed to the struggle facing staff.

He revealed around 100 cases had been confirmed as hospital admissions since November.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail yesterday Dr Tony Berendt, Medical Director at OUH, said: “National and local figures show that flu transmission is increasing.

“It is difficult to make comparisons with last year at this stage, as the unpredictable nature of flu means that it can peak at different times in different years.

“We continue to encourage all our clinical staff who have not yet been immunised to have the vaccine, although we are pleased to report that just under 70 per cent of staff have been immunised.

“It is also important for the public, particularly at-risk groups (children, the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma) to get vaccinated to help reduce the spread.”

He dismissed fears over a strain dubbed ‘Aussie flu’ and said all strains could make people very unwell.