The end of the year brings some time to reflect; however, recently it’s been more difficult than usual to allow myself time to pause.
As I write this column, the NHS has been asked to put all efforts into COVID-19 vaccination and to scale back anything we can, while keeping our patients safe.
No one can imagine how much work goes on behind the scenes. Still, the NHS is well-versed in making it happen, not least because of our experience with the vaccination rollout.
Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) is the lead provider for Lincolnshire’s vaccination centres at Lincoln Showground and Boston Princess Royal Sport Arena.
Additionally, our Sidings Medical Practice played a crucial role in the vaccination programme led by primary care. I was there when we opened our vaccination centres earlier this year, which now feels like a lifetime ago. I remember being filled with so much pride and hope, and I was touched by the sense of relief and emotion from so many members of public who came to get their vaccinations; for many this was their first outing following months of shielding.
2021 is another year that we can describe as unprecedented. Not only because of the immense demand on services having to cope with reduced staffing due to COVID-19 but also because of the unparalleled support our NHS staff and people of Lincolnshire showed for LCHS and the NHS as a whole.
I want to thank staff, patients and the public. It’s only by looking after each other that we have been able to carry on, as the NHS has never really stopped. This year our teams have been working to recover and restore many of the services which were paused at the peak of the pandemic. We have also introduced new services which offer care closer to home – something that is really important to us at LCHS.
In 2021, we improved our urgent care services with extended opening hours in the Urgent Treatment Centre in Spalding and new, socially distanced facilities in Lincoln. On top of this, we continue to provide urgent treatment centres in Boston, Gainsborough, Louth and Skegness, offering care closer to home.
In July, we launched a physiotherapy pilot in Skegness to offer specialist support to pregnant women as they go through incredible physical and hormonal changes. Patients with chronic respiratory problems benefit again from face-to-face pulmonary rehabilitation as the groups come back to village halls and community centres around the county. And our post-COVID service has just celebrated its first birthday. Since they started 12 months ago, they have seen more than 780 patients.
Our community nurses never stopped; even at the peak of the pandemic, they continued to visit patients in their homes or place of residence. In October, we launched a new urgent community response service, providing a two-hour response for patients who otherwise would have to go to a hospital. We have received more than 200 referrals so far, and only 11% of patients needed to be admitted to an acute hospital.
We have also kept using technology such as video consultations and virtual online classes to reach out to patients.
The above is only a tiny snapshot of what we’ve been doing to restore our services and bring care closer to home in 2021. While accepting there will be challenges ahead, I believe that these new and existing community-based services are the future of the NHS. And our trust is a crucial player in making it happen in 2022.