The NHS in Cumbria prepares for winter - how you can play your part

The NHS in Cumbria has developed comprehensive plans to manage the added pressures that winter can bring and is asking for help from communities by following our top tips.  

Teams across the county have been working together to ensure the health system is working as smoothly as possible to provide appropriate support and advice to those who are at risk of illness over the winter and thereby reduce the numbers of people who need to be in hospital.

This year extra funding has been secured to support schemes aimed at ensuring people are only admitted into hospital when necessary and also that discharges are not delayed.

Stephen Eames, Joint Chief Executive of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We are pleased to have secured additional funds for the first time this winter that will help us speed up our discharges at the weekend and helping to avoid admissions in the first place.”

The funds will be used for the following projects:

  • A successful pilot in Eden will now be rolled out across Carlisle in which therapy teams work with paramedics to assess patients in their own home. This is particularly important for older people who have suffered a fall, who may need medical attention but not necessarily a stay in hospital.  By assessing patients in this way the teams can avoid a hospital admission as the support the person needs is actioned in their own home by the experts who provide it.
  • There will be an increase in availability of therapy teams over a weekend to support discharges. This is because we know that some patients can be delayed going home over a weekend because access to therapy team to support the discharge is usually reduced.
  • To support both discharges and admissions, patients who are ready for discharge but waiting for medication to take home for example, will be taken off the ward to an area where they can be supported by a medical team on the ground floor. This means that the nursing staff from the ward can remain there and the bed space is freed up quicker for other patients.

Winter has traditionally been a difficult time for the NHS and the pressures usually reflect what happens in Australia and New Zealand. This year there has been a higher incidence of flu in the southern hemisphere so the NHS is preparing its staff and at risk patients by ensuring the flu jab is widely available.

Dr John Ferris, clinical director for emergency medicine at the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital added: “We know that our performance in A&E is improving which is a good sign that our plans are having an impact and we will be working hard to maintain this over the winter.   The extra schemes that we are able to implement will help ease this pressure but we are also keen that our communities help us too.

“We will be sharing information so that people know how to use all parts of the NHS wisely; when to see a pharmacist, GP, minor injuries unit or when you need A&E.   We want to work with our communities to make sure that you are only in hospital when you need to be.   For example, those with long term conditions will be given expert advice on how to manage their conditions over winter and how to ask for advice before they get so ill they need A&E.”

The system-wide pressures can often be most visible in A&E departments as attendances typically increase during the winter period. To ensure that pressure is properly managed, there are plans incorporating the whole health and care system which include daily briefings to review the pressures and any actions that may be needed.

There are also a range of initiatives that have already been introduced in A&E in order to meet the anticipated increase in demand that the system will see such as direct access to specialists and direct booking for emergency outpatient assessment and care.

A multi-agency team with representatives from across the health and care system  will meet regularly to ensure that patients are supported to have safe and timely discharges from the county’s main hospitals and also the community hospitals. The team will look to ensure patients have robust care plans in place, highlight delays and work to unblock them.

The ‘stay well this winter’ campaign will also be highly visible helping communities understand how to use the NHS effectively and also parents and guardians can get excellent advice for their child’s health through the child health app which is free to download from the App stores on android and Iphone.

Our communities can help this winter by following these top tips:

  1. Get your flu jab–This is the most effective way to protect yourselves and you loved ones from flu. All NHS Staff and those most at risk (those with long term conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, those over 65 and pregnant women) are entitled to a free flu jab.  Carers and those with certain medical conditions are also entitled to a free vaccination.
  2. Choose wisely - Know which NHS service is best for your needs – Check our north Cumbria CCG’s page on winter for a range of advice for winter.
  3. If you care for children – download the child health app free from Android play or Itunes and contains a wealth of advice and support. Or you could download the booklet.
  4. If you have a long term health condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – speak to your care coordinator about how best to manage your symptoms and conditions over the winter.
  5. Stock up your medicine cabinet – make sure you have the essentials over the winter and especially over the bank holidays
  6. Antibiotics – only use those which are prescribed to you. They are no good for coughs and colds.
  7. Norovirus – if you have symptoms of the winter vomiting bug stay away from hospitals, care homes and schools. Wait until you are symptom free for 48 hours before you visit any public places or relatives.
  8. Keep warm – make sure your home and those of your loved ones are warm this winter. At least 18°C
  9. In an emergency call 999