Jan Sobieraj: Our plan for Lincolnshire’s hospitals this winter

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Each year we expect winter to be worse than previous years. In Lincolnshire our population is getting older and has greater healthcare needs. In preparation for winter all of our plans are geared up towards an increase in demand.

Throughout the year we keep an eye on the needs of our patients and the demand on our services, so we can forecast as close as we can what’s going to turn up.

This year’s plan has been developed for some time and in some ways it feels as if winter has arrived at our hospitals as we are already seeing increased numbers turning up at our A&E departments.

Plans are in place to make sure patients coming to our emergency departments see the correct doctors or services they need to. However, we know that around 30% of people who visit A&E could be seen or treated by services outside of hospital.

We ask that people keep A&Es for those with serious or life-threatening illnesses. You can help us by using the other services on offer. This can include self-care, a pharmacy, a GP or practice nurse, GP out of hours services, local urgent care and minor injury services and NHS 111.

Our overall winter plan is robust, but there is no doubt that our services are under huge pressure so we need to make sure that we help patients and carers know where best to go to get the right care. The days of opening lots of extra wards and increasing the footprint of the hospital are gone and we know that patients can be safely cared for in or close to their own homes.

Within the hospital we have schemes designed for us to be a lot more efficient as we know from patients that waiting for things like drugs, diagnostics or assessments, in order for them to go home annoys and frustrates them. We have a number of initiatives in place to help reduce the amount of time people spend in our beds and stay on our wards.

I would like to reassure everyone that people will only go home when they are assessed as medically fit for discharge. We rely on our senior medical team and senior nursing professionals to make that assessment, but once this has been agreed we do think patients should move promptly as they can be safely looked after elsewhere.

Despite our efforts, at most times in the hospital there are a number of patients who are medically fit and well, but there may be a number of different things stopping them from getting home or into an appropriate placement. We are working really closely with community and social care colleagues to tackle these delays and so make space for other more needy patients.

But we also need your help. If you are a patient and know you are coming in for planned surgery or any other treatment, we would ask that you make plans with your family and friends for your discharge before coming in.

Alternatively, if you have a relative who has come in as an emergency patient it may be you can help play a part in helping to get them home as soon as they are ready and assist us in our discharge plans.

To help prevent outbreaks of the highly contagious norovirus, which usually is brought into the hospital, visitors to hospitals are reminded not to visit if they have had diarrhoea and or sickness in the last three days. Children under five should not visit. Those who are visiting should regularly wash their hands, including when they enter and leave ward areas to prevent any potential spread of the virus.

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