Local NHS and care leaders are stepping up plans to maintain safe and effective services for people through what is anticipated to be a challenging winter. This includes £11m of targeted investment to expand urgent care and in-home support, improve the flow of patients through Leicester’s hospitals, and reduce ambulance handover delays.
Alongside this, health and care partners are committed to reduce the long waits for planned care that built up through the pandemic – with plans designed to protect as many planned operations and procedures as possible in the months ahead. The whole health and care system in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is facing sustained high demand. The Emergency Department at the Leicester Royal Infirmary has seen record attendances in the last week, and General Practices are providing higher numbers of virtual and face to face appointments than ever before.
With the potential for a further wave of Covid-19 and a difficult flu season, as well as concerns about the impact of the rising cost of living, several additional Winter measures have been put in place. These include:
- Establishing a joint health and social care team to triage non-urgent 999 calls and get people to the right care for their needs first time. The ‘unscheduled care hub’ is diverting between 40 and 50 people a day into a range of appropriate services in the community; including mental health crisis teams and social care services.
- Implementing a new way of working at the Leicester Royal Infirmary to improve patient flow from the emergency department onto wards, ensuring ambulances can get back on the road faster.
- Enhancing the Same Day Emergency Care service at Glenfield General Hospital, ensuring more people with urgent care needs can be treated and discharged home the same day.
- Expanding urgent care offers in the community and diverting more people to these settings. The Oadby Urgent Treatment Centre is now seeing, treating and discharging up to 40 additional patients a day, helping to reduce overcrowding in the Emergency Department.
- Expanding the use of ‘virtual wards’ for appropriate patients – meaning people can return home to recover with remote oversight from doctors and clinicians, and ensuring acute medical beds are available for the most unwell patients. Up to 230 virtual ward ‘beds’ will be in place across a range of medical specialties by the end of December.
- Increasing the numbers of patients safely discharged ‘home first’ with appropriate support, rather than to temporary care home services.
- Focusing more General Practice support on patients with long term conditions, ensuring that people are supported with remote monitoring devices (like blood pressure and oxygen machines).
- Increasing the numbers of call handlers for the 111 and 999 services to deal with expected increases in demand.
Julie Hogg, Chief Nurse at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “This will be the most challenging Winter we have faced. Patient safety is our number one priority - that’s why we are taking a range of extra measures alongside our system partners to keep patient flow going across our hospitals and reduce pressure in the Emergency Department.
“Often, people don’t realise that our ability to keep planned care going is connected to how pressured things are in urgent and emergency care. Our twin aims this year are to maintain a safe and effective emergency care service for everyone in our area, and to keep as much planned care going as possible, bringing waiting lists down.
“We’d like to thank all our health and care colleagues across the area for adapting to the new ways of working in challenging circumstances, and who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of patients.”
Rachna Vyas, Chief Operating Officer, from the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board, emphasised the role that local people can play in supporting local services and staying well this Winter: “The public really can help us this year. Firstly, we need people to click or call 111 first if you have an urgent care need and aren’t sure where to go. Our Emergency Department is for serious and life-threatening conditions only, and the 111 team is on-hand to make sure you get to the most appropriate place for your needs first time.
“Secondly, people can help themselves and their families stay well this Winter by getting in the know about the range of health and wellbeing services on offer – as well as the kinds of symptoms to look out for with a number of different viruses in circulation.
“The third thing we are asking people to do is get vaccinated. Vaccination remains the best way of protecting yourselves and those around you from flu and Covid-19, and there are vaccination clinics running across our area.”
A new ‘Get in the Know’ website recently launched to provide information about the range of local health and care services available in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, as well as how to treat common illnesses and injuries at home. It features a breadth of resources to help people navigate everything from newly funded mental health crisis cafes to wellbeing hubs and pharmacy support.
The ‘Get in the Know’ website for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland can be found here: www.getintheknow.nhs.uk.