Harrogate health services brace for busy winter period

Winter traditionally sees emergency departments dealing with an influx of patientsWinter traditionally sees emergency departments dealing with an influx of patients
Winter traditionally sees emergency departments dealing with an influx of patients
Tackling flu and cutting down on avoidable emergency department admissions are among the focuses for Harrogate health services as they gear up for a busy winter period.

Representatives from the Harrogate and District NHS Trust outlined their plans for winter action at a meeting at Harrogate Borough Council on November 7.

Winter traditionally sees emergency departments swell with the colder months bringing on an influx of patients suffering heart attacks, strokes, influenza-like illnesses and respiratory conditions.

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It comes as new data shows that Harrogate’s emergency department continues to receive more acutely ill or injured patients each year, with attendances to the ED swelling to more than 4500 in April this year – compared to less than 4000 in April 2015.

Statistics from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence show that a spike of 40,000 deaths resulting from cold occur yearly around England.

Of these, 82.5 per cent are among the elderly – people aged 75 and over. Accompanying it are a spike in ED admissions.

According to Mike Forster, the operational director of long term and unscheduled care at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, admissions to ED are typically more complex during winter, with patients presenting with more serious symptoms compared to the rest of the year.

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Compounding it is the prevalence of norovirus between October to March, as well as the impact of Christmas and New Year bank holiday periods resulting in a lack of other health services open for patients.

The district health service will look to cut down on the amount of non-vital admissions to the ED by improving awareness of the local health services that can treat locals with ailments.

There’ll also be a renewed focus on infection control processes to minimise the spread of infection and loss of beds.

They’ll also implement a “Every Hour Matters” strategy of improving efficiency over the winter months.

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Every Hour Matters will see health staff minimise elective work to free up more time for them to deal with outpatients and day cases.

Staff will also be tasked with clearing diagnostic and assessment backlogs, with more senior decision makers on the wards monitoring patients and workloads.

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service