NHS leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are urging local people to ‘help us help you’ to stay well and get the right care, as the health and care system gears up for another challenging winter.
Last winter was one of the busiest the region’s health and care services have experienced and NHS and social care leaders are expecting significant pressures again this year.
Local hospitals, GPs, community healthcare providers and social care services are working closely together to relieve pressure on the area’s hospitals and make sure that patients can get the care they need in the right place and at the right time.
More than £4m has been invested in expanding and enhancing community healthcare services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to help prevent emergency hospital admissions and support patients to return home promptly following an inpatient stay.
NHS 111 services are also being enhanced to make sure that more patients can speak to doctors and nurses when they have an urgent care need, and GP practices are offering improved access to patients, with more appointments available in the evenings and weekends.
But with service demand continuing to rise, health and care leaders are also asking the public to play their part by taking steps to stay well, use the right NHS services for their needs and support loved ones to return home promptly following an inpatient stay.
Local GP and CCG clinical lead for urgent care, Dr Lesley Ward, said:
Winter is always a difficult time for health and care services but this year is already looking especially challenging with hospitals experiencing significant pressures and A&E attendances and admissions among the highest we’ve seen for years. The best way we can meet this demand is by working together as a health and care system to help people stay out of hospital as much as possible, and to return home promptly when they no longer need inpatient care. We’re making good progress with this, thanks to the commitment and dedication of our staff, but we also need local people to play their part, which is why we’re making this call to ‘help us help you’ this winter, with three key messages
First, if you’re entitled to a flu vaccination, please take it up as soon as it’s offered. If you’re in one of the at-risk groups or over 65, it’s one of the most effective ways to avoid flu and the secondary complications that can lead to an emergency hospital admission.
Second, if you think you’re coming down with an illness, speak to your pharmacist as soon as you can. Don’t wait. By acting early on minor ailments, you could prevent more serious complications leading to a possible hospital admission.
And third, if you think you need medical help urgently, make sure you know what to do by calling 111. They’ll give you immediate medical advice and can help you avoid an unnecessary trip to A&E.
Carers and families of patients are also being urged to help hospitals meet demand by supporting loved ones to leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit to leave.
Delays in discharges are one of the key challenges faced by local hospitals over the winter months but in many cases patients could be helped to return home sooner with support from family and friends. With increased pressure on social care services this year, families are being urged to rally round to support loved ones who might need extra support to return home following a hospital stay.
Dr Ward added:
Helping loved ones get home from hospital sooner is good for our hospitals, but it is also really important for patients as unnecessary extended stays can seriously affect older adults’ wellbeing and ability to cope when they return home. If you have a loved one in hospital, speak to the ward staff about their discharge plans and ask what you can do to help their return home. In many cases this could be as simple as getting some shopping in and turning the heating is on.
Health and care system partners are working together via the local Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Healthier Together, to redesign local urgent care services for the longer-term in order to better meet people’s needs.
This work, set out in a joint STP Urgent Care Strategy published earlier this year, will place greater emphasis on preventative self-care, strong integrated services in the community and targeted prevention for those most likely to use urgent care, in order to reduce demand for urgent care and hospital admissions.