Health and care services planning ahead for winter

Although winter will bring big challenges for the NHS and care sector this year, services are working more closely than ever before to plan ahead and make best use of all available resources.

To help, the public are also being urged to plan ahead, to prevent ill health wherever possible this winter.

Winter is always a tough time for health and care services.

However, due to the increased demand already being experienced by under pressure teams, the often complex needs of patients, the need for strong COVID-19 infection control arrangements and a likely increase in flu and COVID-19 related illness, this will make it even more difficult this year.

One Gloucestershire partners are doing all they can to plan in advance and ensure there is a strong winter plan in place that strengthens the ability of services to cope, respond as one at times of escalation and maintain the very best care for those in most need.

In support of this year’s Winter Plan for Gloucestershire, additional national and local funds have been agreed (in excess of £2m).

Some examples of the measures being taken:

  • Delivering at pace the flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme – over one million COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been administered in the county
  • GP surgeries offering additional face to face, telephone and video appointments where appropriate
  • Using advice and guidance technology so that GPs can quickly access a specialist opinion from hospital consultants
  • Recruiting additional staff across health and social care, including Nurses and Health Care Assistants
  • Making best use of the two large hospital sites to ensure planned surgery can continue and reducing the backlog built up during the first phases of the COVID-19 response
  • Introducing a raft of measures to reduce ambulance handover delays at times of peak pressure, including enhanced clinical triage (doctors  and nurses using their clinical skills to provide additional advice and assessment over the phone)
  • Increasing capacity in the A&E departments and ensuring people are seen by the most appropriate member of the team first time, by-passing waiting in A&E if appropriate and going straight to an assessment service
  • Introducing the Clinical Assessment Service (CAS) for NHS 111/Out of Hours to increase clinical support and advice to people remaining at home or being directed and booked into local NHS services
  • Ensuring services are in place to assess, treat and support older people to return home from hospital on the same day, with on-going support if needed
  • Investing in additional NHS funded beds, including in the independent sector
  • Making sure arrangements are in place for people to leave hospital safely:
  • additional staff working in the hospital to home teams
  • investing in more care home beds
  • increasing access to reablement and domiciliary (home) care staff – providing nursing care for patients and families at home where needed
  • Increasing capacity in joined up community health and care teams/rapid response services
  • Voluntary sector organisation partners providing a follow up service to ensure patients are being supported to remain at home after leaving hospital.

The public can also play their part.

Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect against COVID-19 and seasonal viruses. If people are eligible for a COVID booster, flu jab, or both, they are being urged to take up the offer as soon as possible. It is also not too late to take up the offer of a first or second dose of the COVID vaccine.

The NHS has thanked the great majority of local people who are accessing services appropriately and responding to the county’s Click or Call First campaign messages.

Residents are being encouraged to continue to play their part and carefully consider the range of healthcare options available, particularly for minor injury and illness.

The local ASAP Glos NHS App and website and 111.nhs.uk can signpost people to the right care for them, including pharmacies and minor injury and illness units. The 111 phone service can also provide advice and book people into local NHS services if needed.