NHS trusts plan to maintain operational resilience all year round, but put a particular focus on winter given the higher incidence of flu, norovirus, and respiratory conditions which all put services under significant extra pressure.
Preparing for winter is about ensuring there is enough capacity, including beds and staff, to meet patients’ needs. NHS trusts will plan specific activities and contingencies to protect patient safety over the winter period. However, resilience in one organisation very much depends on resilience in the rest of the system.
This system resilience is organised through A&E delivery boards made up of representatives from all types of trust (acute hospital, ambulance, community and mental health), clinical commissioning groups, representatives of local primary care and local government (social care). Each A&E delivery board is required to produce a plan ahead of winter.
To strengthen resilience in the run up to winter, trusts will be:
- recruiting more staff
- undertaking contingency and resilience planning
- planning for bad weather
- working with partners, for example primary care, to reduce admissions
- increasing capacity and reducing bed occupancy
- reducing elective activity
- improving patient flow and tackling delayed transfers of care (DTOCs)
- putting in place appropriate care for patients who do not need to stay overnight
- ensuring social care and community services are able to support prompt discharge
- communicating effectively with local communities.