Health and care leaders in Gloucestershire are predicting a very challenging winter, but say their services are working more closely than ever before to plan ahead and make best use of all available resources.

The public are also being urged to follow practical tips to help them stay well wherever possible and work alongside the local services to support the most vulnerable.

Medical Director at NHS Gloucestershire, Dr Andy Seymour said:
“Due to the pressure already being experienced by health and care teams, rising levels of seasonal illness and the complex needs of many service users, this will be a very difficult winter for sure.
We are doing all we can to plan in advance and ensure we have a strong plan that strengthens our ability to cope, respond as one at times of peak pressure and maintain the very best care for service users.”

In support of this year’s emerging Winter Plan for Gloucestershire, additional national and local funds have been agreed (over £12million).

A whole raft of measures are being put in place to help services and staff to take the strain over the coming months, including investing in staff, services and additional beds, ward space and discharge areas (see additional information).

Medical Director at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Professor Mark Pietroni said:
“Our comprehensive plan is about putting service users at the heart of all we do. Despite the inevitable pressures that will face health and care services this winter, our priority is ensuring we have the best possible measures in place to maintain high quality care for those most in need.

However, we are being honest about the scale of the challenge and understand the health and care workforce is already working harder and longer than ever before.

We are strongly urging people to only call 999 or visit the two A&E Departments if it’s a life-threatening situation or a serious injury and please show respect and kindness towards all staff in the months ahead and remember they are doing their very best to help them.

We are also asking relatives and carers to do everything they can to work with us to get their loved ones home from hospital as quickly and as safely as possible, with additional support if necessary, from local NHS community services or adult social care teams.”

Medical Director at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Amjad Uppal, said:
“The colder months always present additional challenges, particularly for our service users who are vulnerable, perhaps through their age or medical conditions. This will be a really tough winter so it’s important we all play our part in keeping people safe and well.

We are working with our partners as well as our communities to plan and join up community services and support, but everyone can help – so please work with us and look out for family, friends and neighbours at what is a difficult time for many.”

Director of Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, Siobhan Farmer said:
“Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect against COVID-19 and seasonal viruses. If you are eligible for a COVID booster, flu jab, or both, I’d urge you to take up the offer as soon as possible.

We know there is a lot to think about as we head into this winter, including the cost of living. Whether it’s prioritising your mental health, eating well, staying active, keeping warm or looking out for vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, our Stay Well This Winter campaign provides links to a wealth of information and resources, including through the council’s Support Hub.”

Dr Seymour added:
“If you or a loved one is starting to feel unwell, we’d recommend getting early advice at your community pharmacy, particularly if you have a long-term health condition.

If you are ill or injured and not sure where to turn, the local ASAP Glos NHS App and website and can guide you to the right support and services. The 111 phone service can also provide advice and book you into local NHS services if needed.”

Additional Information

Some examples of the measures being taken by health and care services:

  • GP surgeries working together to offer additional appointments during evenings and on Saturdays
  • Increasing the resilience of NHS 111 and 999 services
  • Recruiting additional staff across health and social care, including Nurses and Health Care Assistants
  • Ensuring services are in place to assess, treat and support older people and people with mental health needs to return home from hospital on the same day, with on-going support if required
  • Increasing capacity in the A&E departments and ensuring people are seen by the most appropriate member of the team first time, by-passing waiting in A&E if appropriate and going straight to an assessment service
  • Social Workers working in the two large hospitals to help avoid unnecessary hospital stays and to support planning for post hospital care (investing over £500,000)
  • Investing in additional NHS funded beds, including in the community and in the independent sector
  • Making sure arrangements are in place for people to leave hospital safely:
    • additional staff working in the hospital to home teams
    • investing in more care home beds
    • increasing access to reablement and domiciliary (home) care staff – providing nursing care for patients and families at home where needed
  • Building on existing arrangements to develop a hub dedicated to serious respiratory infections, with patients receiving same day access to care out of hospital while also creating additional capacity for hospitals and ambulance services
  • Significant expansion of Virtual Wards to support people in the place they call home e.g. trauma, frailty and respiratory conditions
  • Increasing capacity in joined up community health and care teams/rapid response services
  • Voluntary sector organisation partners providing a follow up service to ensure patients are being supported to remain at home after leaving hospital
  • Making best use of the two large hospital sites to ensure planned surgery can continue and reducing the backlog built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.