In 2010/11, the influenza season in England was marked by a relative increase in impact on the population compared to that seen during the 2009/10 pandemic, with the same influenza subtype, A(H1N1)pdm09, circulating. The peaks in critical care bed occupancy in both seasons coincided with peaks in influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 activity, but onset of influenza in 2010/11 additionally coincided with notably cold weather, a comparatively smaller peak in influenza B activity and increased reports of bacterial co-infection. A bigger impact on critical care services was seen across all regions in England in 2010/11, with, compared to 2009/10, a notable age shift in critical care admissions from children to young adults. The peak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity did not coincide with critical care admissions, and regression analysis suggested only a small proportion of critical care bed days might be attributed to the virus in either season. Differences in antiviral policy and improved overall vaccine uptake in 2010/11 with an influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 strain containing vaccine between seasons are unlikely to explain the change in impact observed between the two seasons. The reasons behind the relative high level of severe disease in the 2010/11 winter are likely to have resulted from a combination of factors, including an age shift in infection, accumulation of susceptible individuals through waning immunity, new susceptible individuals from new births and cold weather. The importance of further development of severe influenza disease surveillance schemes for future seasons is reinforced.