In light of increased operational pressures the NHS faces during the winter, NHS England has highlighted the need to focus on winter preparedness. Here, we will look at some of the actions that ICSs are taking to help mitigate these pressures.
Identifying ‘pinch points’ in North East and North Cumbria
North East and North Cumbria ICS is focusing on identifying ‘pinch points’ ahead of this years’ winter pressures, highlighting three key areas: getting patients to the right place first time, speeding up ambulance handovers at hospitals, and avoiding delays in the transfer of care of patients from hospital.
Solutions being implemented to support these areas of focus include increased support for frail patients, urgent community response services, and virtual wards to prevent falls and care for people in their own homes. Capacity in the region will also be enhanced through an increase in the number of general and acute hospital beds, along with more beds in community care settings.
Dr Neil O’Brien, medical director at North East and North Cumbria ICB, said: “Winter is always a busy time for us but detailed planning and building on past experiences makes a real difference. Last winter our region’s urgent and emergency care services helped more than a million people, and despite this we were able to maintain good performance figures, with some being the best in the country. We’ve also made improvements in ambulance handover times and reduced the number of hospital admissions due to falls by more than 10 percent. This year we are planning to ensure even better coordination between services than ever, with a new system coordination centre in place at the Integrated Care Board using real-time data and intelligence to help us manage the anticipated high number of patients needing our help.”
Virtual wards launch in Derbyshire
Derby and Derbyshire ICS announced the launch of nine virtual wards this month, to help reduce pressures on services.
The virtual wards, at locations across the region including Chesterfield Royal Hospital and University Hospitals Derby, will be caring for patients in specialties such as cardiology, respiratory, frailty, and palliative care. A diagnostic virtual ward will also be providing testing and monitoring of patients over longer periods of time.
Clinicians will identify suitable patients for the virtual ward programme, and patients will receive equipment including a pre-configured smartphone or tablet, as well as any monitoring devices they may need to help with their care. Five dedicated clinical hubs will monitor the patients, and healthcare providers can make home visits if necessary.
Dr Hal Spencer, chief executive at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, said: “The virtual ward expansion forms part of an investment in schemes to increase capacity across all hospitals within Joined Up Care Derbyshire – the integrated care system. Our system virtual wards are a great tool open to our clinicians to support keeping people out of hospital, which is vital to relieve the pressures we particularly feel during winter and provides a much better experience for patients and their families.”
Keeping residents ‘Warm and Well’ in Norfolk and Waveney
Norfolk and Waveney ICS reported last month that it has delivered more than 215,000 COVID-19 vaccinations and 268,000 flu vaccinations to residents across the region. To help support its residents in getting vaccinated, the ICS is providing walk in options at a variety of sites, and 98 percent of care homes in the region to date have seen their residents receive COVID jabs so far.
The ICS has also launched its ‘Warm and Well’ campaign, which encourages Norfolk and Waveney residents to “winter proof” their health by preparing for winter illnesses and providing information on what to do if they fall ill. The campaign will additionally be providing support for those struggling to pay bills or heat their homes this winter, raising awareness of local hardship support.
Bill Borrett, chair of Norfolk and Waveney ICP, said: “Last year our winter wellness portal received thousands of visitors seeking information like how their local pharmacist can support their health. This year the portal includes even more information to help people get the support they need over the cold Winter months.”
Resilience and capacity building in Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire ICS has revealed its plans to overcome winter pressures this year, including resilience-building measures ahead of winter.
On top of rolling-out COVID-19 and flu vaccination programmes, Northamptonshire is focusing on strengthening mental health support, improving ambulance response times, and avoiding long stays in mental health inpatient settings.
Chris Pallot, director of operations and deputy COO of Northamptonshire ICB, said: “Locally we are working with partners to look at how we can increase bed capacity in our hospitals as we move through the winter months whether this is boosting specialist services to patients with an increased risk of requiring hospital treatment, including those who are frail or have long-term conditions, to minimise hospitalisations, providing intermediate care for patients who are ready to leave hospital but need additional support in their recovery before they return home and expanding our virtual wards to ensure more people can be cared for at home.”
Staying well this winter in West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire ICS will be running its ‘Together We Can’ campaign again this winter, helping people access health and care services at the right time, and in the right place.
The campaign focuses on encouraging people to take care of themselves over the winter months, providing advice, support and tips on staying healthy through an easy-to-use website.
Dr James Thomas, medical director for West Yorkshire ICB, said: “Health and care services are here to help. During winter and times of significant pressure on local services, we still encourage the public to come forward and not to delay if they need help or are concerned about their health, but we want to ensure they’re using the right services and they know when to go to a pharmacy, use NHS 111 or their GP practice. You can save time by ordering prescriptions and seeking medical advice online by downloading the NHS App. Find out all you need to know this winter by visiting togetherwe-can.com.”