The Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Health and Care System’s Winter Plan sets out how it will manage the challenges that both the NHS and Social Care will face in the months ahead.
It ensures that local health partners have robust arrangements in place 24/7 to cope with a second wave of Covid-19; implementation of the Restoration and Recovery plan after the first phase of the pandemic; and potential issues that Britain’s exit from the European Union could have.
It builds on lessons learned from Wave One of the pandemic, experience from previous years and government policy to ensure that hospitals continue with their routine and specialist non-Covid-19 work this winter, including cancer and elective services.
The Winter Plan covers the period October 2020 to April 2021 and looks at what Covid-19 related changes the NHS would like to change or keep, such as access to video and other technology like eConsult at GP practices, advice and guidance services between primary and secondary care and additional out of hospital beds for patients as part of their discharge pathway.
During the peak of the first wave of Covid-19, a number of routine and other NHS hospital services were put on hold, but health partners are planning for it to be business as usual as far as possible this winter – and they are having to do so with fewer hospital and community beds available because of spacing requirements for social distancing.
A number of schemes and plans have been put in place and some already introduced to relieve pressure.
These include NHS 111 First – a new, more convenient way for people to access urgent care, including accessing the Emergency Department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. This is already reducing the number of people with non-life-threatening issues who go to the Emergency Department (ED) when they could have been seen more appropriately elsewhere, such as urgent treatment centres, minor injuries units or direct to specialty within the hospital.
People who need medical, but non-emergency, help are encouraged to contact 111 first, either online or by phone. Contacting 111 first will help the local NHS keep you safe with social distancing, and ensure you receive the right care, in the right place, in a more timely way. People who use NHS 111 First and are still advised to attend ED will be booked a time slot. Anyone who simply turns up at ED may be redirected to a more appropriate NHS service. This is supported by a new Clinical Assessment Service where local GPs, who have access to patients’ medical notes, are involved in the triage process to get patients quickly to the right place, first time.
The NHS still has a ‘home first’ policy for patients medically fit for discharge from hospital, but there are also now approximately 110 short-stay out-of-hospital beds available across the Portsmouth and South Eastern Hampshire geography, predominantly in Gosport and Portsmouth for patients who may be awaiting care packages, their long term nursing home to become available or equipment to be put in place at home for them.
Patient families and carers are also being encouraged to help the NHS by thinking ahead for what support their loved-ones might need when they are ready to return home from hospital – and also not to rely on NHS Patient Transport if they have their own method of transport that could be accessed to get people home quicker.
Other initiatives are also helping keep people out of hospital in the first place when they can be cared for appropriately in their own home. These include a telemedicine service in care homes and integrated teams working in local communities for both children and adults.
Increased mental health provision has also been established and a Consultant Connect programme which is a phone advice line which means a GP can speak directly to a hospital consultant to access advice on how to manage the patient out of hospital or to access faster medical help, a better outcome for patient care and fewer appointments and pressure on the NHS.