As families across Lincolnshire wind down for the festive season, doctors and nurses in the health service are gearing up for a period of high demand.
While friends and family sit around the dinner table, dig into Christmas dinner and share jokes found in crackers, the NHS will be implementing its winter plan.
The blueprint for how to deal with increased demand during the colder months is prepared every year and is designed to make sure staff and services can manage the pressure.
Often, it’s the region’s emergency departments which bare the burden of seasonal illnesses and injuries.
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This year, hospital bosses are expecting the recent spike in A&E demand to continue through the winter.
The easiest conclusion for some to arrive at is that people are clogging up emergency departments with minor conditions and wasting staff time.
While this may have some truth to it, officials say the more common patients are elderly with long term illnesses which get worse during the winter months.
Simon Evans, director of operations at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, also expects an increase in flu cases this year and for the recent spike in A&E demand to continue.
“We have seen a sustained increase since November,” he told Local Democracy Weekly.
“We are expecting that to continue and our plans, which are based on previous years, expect to have that sustained pressure over the remainder of this year.”
While the local hospitals deal with winter pressure every year, this time the period feels more pertinent for the health trust.
Recent “unprecedented” demand has shone a light on emergency departments, which have not met waiting time targets for half a decade.
Union bosses have weighed in and warned that the local trust is “on its knees”.
It’s been a tough end to the year for the region’s hospitals and it looks like the pressure may continue into the next decade.
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