Lincoln County Hospital bosses are optimistic that the lessons learned from previous experiences will allow them to combat periods of prolonged pressure over a stressful winter period.
The hospital faces a significant rise in admissions in the period from November to the end of January, as the nights draw in and temperatures fall.
As previously reported, the so-called winter pressures were more extreme than usual last year, with the hospital being placed on ‘black alert’ for 10 days from January 5 to 14.
Community services across Lincolnshire were also suspended to provide additional support to under-pressure hospitals.
Staff are currently working to ease the pressure on doctors and nurses if the situation repeats itself this winter, which managers believe is likely.
Jackie Ryan is the lead site duty manager at Lincoln County Hospital, responsible for managing the flow of patients coming in and out of the hospital.
She explained that the hospital was considering opening another area on the site with a small number of beds to deal with any unexpected rise in admissions.
Plans have also been put in place to predict dates of discharge for patients, to improve the speed of complex discharges, and to work with the community to help people leaving hospital in need of further care.
Jackie said: “Winter pressures used to be the increase in patients coming to hospital from November to the end of January. However, now we seem to have pressures all year round – through the last few months we’ve not really seen a break.
“Last winter around the New Year was probably the worst I have ever known in my time nursing over the last 30 years. We’ve looked at what happened and hopefully we can learn from that.
“But I think we’re still going to find ourselves under pressure. Admissions are still going up in the A&E department so we have to work with what we’ve got and learn lessons on a daily basis.
“To put that into context, our A&E department sees between 175 up to about 240 patients per day at the moment. When I first came into this job six years ago, we were seeing between 150 and 175 patients.”
Abigail Norris, another site duty manager at the hospital, added: “We always prioritise patients in A&E between major and minor injuries to ensure that people are treated as quickly as possible.
“We’ve got a number of other resources in the county that can help patients who do not need A&E – GPs, pharmacists, 111 – so it’s about educating people that there are a range of alternatives out there.
“It’s about stopping and thinking whether you really need to be in A&E or if there is somewhere else you can go. It’s not great for people either as they’ll be waiting for a long time when they could be helped or advised by their GP or pharmacist.”