Suffolk NHS winter pressures plans includes mental health and primary care for first time

Vulnerable people are being urged to get a flu vaccination for this winter. Picture: GEVORG GEVORGYA

Vulnerable people are being urged to get a flu vaccination for this winter. Picture: GEVORG GEVORGYAN/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The whole care system in Suffolk must pull together in order to help our already challenged emergency departments make it through this winter safely.

This is the message embedded in the county’s 2017/18 winter surge and pressure plan, which traditionally focuses on A&E but for the first time ever is factoring in mental health and primary care services.

The document recognises that as well as growth in patient attendances, the availability of care in the community, the speed at which patients are discharged from hospital, and staffing numbers will also have an impact on the performance of A&E.

The plan, written by the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), says: “The focus on the ED (emergency department) and flow is critical, the acute provider is effectively the end point for the system, and therefore when this becomes over-stretched, the business as usual services required to keep patients well are reduced due to the capacity being used for urgent care.

“For the first time in our winter plan, Suffolk has introduced a more robust approach to the monitoring of primary care and mental health services to ensure that this is a plan for the whole health economy.”

Ensuring GPs refer unwell patients straight to specialist departments to bypass A&E, carrying out more assessments within care homes, and making sure enough equipment is available to set-up ‘care packages’ in frail patients’ homes to speed up hospital discharges are some of the key actions detailed in the plan.

An anticipated severe outbreak of the flu this winter is expected to add pressure and vulnerable people are urged to get vaccinated.

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A spokesman for the CCGs said: “The winter plan has been developed with our local health and care partners so that people’s physical and mental health needs can be met and that the current good quality and safety of services can be maintained.

“People can do their bit to support their NHS. Eligible people are encouraged to get a flu vaccination from their GP practice. Look out for the health of elderly and vulnerable family and neighbours and seek help early from NHS 111, the pharmacy or GP.”

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