WINTER bugs like flu and norovirus must be taken seriously, warn regional NHS chiefs.

Health bosses say the bugs are the major contributing factor to pressure on NHS services at this time of year.

So far this winter, norovirus outbreaks have led to the closure of more than 120 hospital wards or bays nationally.

Also, cases of seasonal flu have risen.

Paul Twomey, joint medical director for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber, says it isn’t too late for people to get a flu jab.

He added: “If you know anyone who may be at risk from flu, encourage them to get protected.

“NHS staff continue to pull out all the stops, with flu and norovirus cases rising as expected – although thanks to closer working between hospitals, health groups and councils, fewer people are spending long periods in hospital compared with this time last year.

“When temperatures are low it’s more important than ever that people help doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline staff provide care to the most seriously ill, by getting the free flu jab if you’re eligible and by using the NHS 111 service as the first port of call for non-emergencies.”