Health and care providers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are gearing up to help people keep well over winter and manage the extra pressure on services that cold weather brings.
Hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, community health services, social care services and charities are working together to keep people well at home and quickly and effectively treat those that do need emergency care.
The NHS is also advising the public about how to ward off common winter illnesses before they become more serious, and how to use the best service for their needs if they do become injured or unwell.
"Winter is traditionally a challenging time for health services and this year will be no exception. However we have robust plans in place to manage demand and the NHS is working closely with local authorities and charities to make sure we are doing everything possible to keep people out of hospital and help them return home promptly following an inpatient stay. People can also prepare for winter by taking a few simple steps to keep themselves well and use the most appropriate service when they get ill."
- Dr Peter Goyder, clinical lead for urgent care speaking on behalf of the three CCGs
With a growing and ageing population, the NHS is seeing and treating more people than ever. In winter months, flu, norovirus, and respiratory problems mean many frail and vulnerable people get sicker. This leads to more people being admitted in an emergency, which has a much greater impact on hospitals.
Local health and social care services have been planning where extra resources are needed over winter. Schemes include
- Community healthcare support for ‘at risk’ people, including older adults and those with long-term conditions, to look after them in their homes and help prevent emergency hospital admissions
- Discharge schemes to help leave hospital as soon as they are fit to do so, freeing up hospital beds and promoting better health outcomes for patients
- Urgent care services including GP out-of-hours and minor injuries services to help people get the care they need when they need it, without having to go to A&E
- Public information campaigns to help people stay well over winter and choose the most appropriate service for their needs when they are injured or unwell.
Proactive discharge schemes, to help patients leave hospital as soon as they are fit and able to do so, are a key element in the drive to improve patient ‘flow’ through the local health and care system and relieve pressure at hospital pinch points during the winter months.
These include dedicated discharge teams in the area’s main hospitals, which work with community-based discharge services to ensure that patients can be discharged home, with appropriate community healthcare support, once they are fit for discharge.
NHS figures show that over the last 12 months in Bristol alone these schemes have contributed to a steady fall in the number of number of hospital bed days lost to delayed discharges. Delayed transfers of care at both of the main Bristol hospitals are now below the South West average of 6%.
The NHS, councils, charities and other partners are also working together to encourage members of the public – particularly those over 65, with long term conditions and their carers – to take simple steps to keep themselves well over the winter and avoid illnesses that can lead to hospital admission.
- vaccinate yourself and your family, particularly those in at-risk groups, against flu, which hospitalises thousands of people a year
- get advice from a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell with a cough or cold, before it gets too serious
- alternatively if you are ill call the non-emergency NHS 111 helpline which can advise you on the best service for your needs
- keep as warm as you can and if possible maintain rooms at 18°c
- pick up any prescriptions before shops close for Christmas
- re-stock on food and medicines before shops close.
People can also help the elderly in their community, who are often isolated and can be slow to seek help, by:
- getting to know your elderly neighbours
- helping them keep warm and fed
- encouraging them to keep mobile
- helping with shopping and home tasks
- taking them to shops, GP or the local pharmacy to pick up medications or get their flu jab
- watching for illness and help them seek help early.
The public health message is complemented by the local ‘Right Care, First Time’ campaign which aims to help people choose the most appropriate service for their needs when they are injured or unwell, relieving pressure on busy services such as GPs and A&E and helping patients get the care they need as soon as possible.
Detailed information about services available in the Bristol area has been distributed via GPs, pharmacies and other community outlets and is also available online.