Health chiefs have begun fine-tuning their winter preparations in the North East.
Hospitals are receiving extra funding – a total of £14million has been earmarked for the region – to assist with preparations such as homecare and reablement packages to help patients go home as soon as they can.
And following last year’s pressures, hospitals have mechanisms in place and have introduced new ways of working to deal with surges in demand.
Hundreds of beds can be allocated as dedicated ‘winter beds’ during surges with dedicated areas to assist patients to transfer to home.
To cope with huge demands on A&E departments, ‘streaming’ is in place so patients with non-emergency illness are seen as quickly as possible.
Having been hit by norovirus and flu last year, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is increasing infection control efforts.
Dr Mark Harrison, emergency medicine consultant, said: “Winter is always a busy time and we’ve done a lot to prepare.
“We’ve changed the layout of our ambulance arrival zone to make a safe, confidential and dignified area for patients to be handed over by the ambulance crews to the nursing staff, and to help get those crews back out more efficiently.
“We’ve also reconfigured emergency care to ensure that patients get to the right treatment zones as quickly as possible.”
The Trust is also providing discharge support comprising teams of health and social care staff including community nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to support patients returning home.
It is also promoting the #endpjparalysis campaign to help patients out of their pyjamas and up and out of bed to aid their recovery while encouraging staff to get the flu jab.
This year’s NHS England and Public Heath England winter campaign ‘Help Us Help You’ is urging people to play their own part in staying well, and choosing the right service to get the right help.
NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The NHS has plans in place for the additional pressures that winter brings. We are building on our work last year and will be monitoring the system across the region to resolve issues and help manage patient flow.
“It’s vital to get help early if you are falling ill. You can now access your GP in the evening and weekends and local pharmacists can help with minor illnesses, and the flu jab is the best way to protect against flu. If you need urgent health advice, call 111.”