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‘We are preparing for winter as number of patients using emergency care services rises’, says health director

As the weather has started to become colder (and wetter), everyone’s thoughts have turned to winter, writes Rebecca Neno, Lincoln NHS Integrated Care Broad (ICB) Winter Director

In the NHS, our thoughts have been on winter for some time, as we know it is a time when we experience increased pressure on our services and need to be prepared to respond, for the benefit of our patients in Lincolnshire.

We’ve already started to see increases in the number of patients using services in the community and coming into our urgent and emergency care services with symptoms of respiratory illnesses, seasonal viruses and people who are unfortunately very poorly. We need to ensure that everyone who needs our help gets the care they need in a timely way, in the right location, to get them back to their homes as quickly as possible.

Rebecca Neno, Lincoln NHS Integrated Care Broad (ICB) Winter Director.
Rebecca Neno, Lincoln NHS Integrated Care Broad (ICB) Winter Director.

We are putting enormous effort into strengthening our emergency care pathways and protecting them so they are available for those who really need them.

This includes the implementation of new acute respiratory infection (ARI) hubs in Gainsborough, the east coast, and in the south of the county, offering adults and children over two with same-day access to rapid diagnostics and treatments for respiratory issues. This is a huge development that should really enhance the experience of our patients in Lincolnshire, so many of whom suffer with this each year.

We’ve also done a lot of work to ensure that patients only remain in hospital when they really need to be there, as we all know that the best bed for you is your own bed wherever possible, and we also know that we need to free up beds to improve flow through our hospital emergency departments. Our new Transfer of Care Hubs bring together representatives from across health and care to ensure patients are discharged from hospital beds in a timely manner and to the right place.

We are making significant investments into additional capacity in our hospital avoidance response team (HART), our clinical assessment service (CAS) and in virtual wards, which are specialist services which allow patients to get the care they need at home safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital.

There is also a role for our patients and public. We know that concerns about getting a GP appointment, or lack of information about the support that is out there, mean that people often end up in our emergency care pathways and our hospitals when they may not need to be. The services we can offer in Lincolnshire are much broader than our A&Es, and those must be kept only for those occasions when you are genuinely experiencing a major emergency situation.

We have our amazing, effective Urgent Treatment Centres across the county, many GP practices offer extended hours to ensure ease of appointment access and our local pharmacists can also often give you help to ease symptoms and prevent it becoming a crisis.

If in doubt, we’d always recommend that people access NHS111 online or call 111, and they will steer you in the right direction of the advice, support and care that you need.

The most important thing we ask is that you look after yourself and those around you. Make sure your medicine cabinet is well stocked with basics including painkillers, cold and flu remedies, and that you check in on those who might need a little extra support. With the very best wish in the world, we hope we don’t see you this winter.

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