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NHS sets out winter guidance

Last week, the NHS set out its plans to rapidly boost capacity and resilience ahead of what is expected to be another busy winter period for local services.

These come ahead of what is predicted to be a ‘perfect storm’ of yet more Covid-19 cases and the flu season.

Many of the NHS’s key measures involve technology, including the use of virtual wards to provide some of the estimated 7,000 additional beds that may be required and the recruitment of more 111 and 999 call centre staff to deal with higher demand.

Others look to better connect essential parts of the system. In July, only 40% of patients who were ready to leave hospital ended up doing so. This was primarily due to stretched social care services and will be tackled through greater collaboration throughout the winter.

Alongside these measures, the government will continue to tackle the Covid backlog through its Elective Recovery Plan, which earlier this week led to the announcement that the NHS had virtually eliminated two-year waits for elective care before the end of July. The next milestone concerns those waiting more than two months after an urgent referral for suspected cancer or 18 months for routine care.

The full set of core objectives and key actions for operational resilience are as follows:

  • Prepare for variants of COVID-19 and respiratory challenges, including an integrated COVID-19 and flu vaccination programme.
  • Increase capacity outside acute trusts, including the scaling up of additional roles in primary care and releasing annual funding to support mental health through the winter.
  • Increase resilience in NHS 111 and 999 services, through increasing the number of call handlers to 4.8k in 111 and 2.5k in 999.
  • Target Category 2 response times and ambulance handover delays, including improved utilisation of urgent community response and rapid response services, the new digital intelligent routing platform, and direct support to the most challenged trusts.
  • Reduce crowding in A&E departments and target the longest waits in ED, through improving use of the NHS directory of services, and increasing provision of same day emergency care and acute frailty services.
  • Reduce hospital occupancy, through increasing capacity by the equivalent of at least 7,000 general and acute beds, through a mix of new physical beds, virtual wards, and improvements elsewhere in the pathway.
  • Ensure timely discharge, across acute, mental health, and community settings, by working with social care partners and implementing the 10 best practice interventions through the ‘100 day challenge’.
  • Provide better support for people at home, including the scaling up of virtual wards

You can read more about the context behind the NHS’s package of measures to boost winter capacity by clicking here.

techUK will continue to work closely with the NHS on its upcoming strategy for health and care, including through our Bi-Monthly Member Check-In Sessions with the NHS Transformation Directorate’s Adult Social Care team. You can sign up to the next session, covering Digital Skills for Care at taking place on 8 September, by clicking here.

You can also view the latest social care innovation news, blogs and reports by visiting our recently launched Social Care Innovation Hub.

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