The health service has seen a spike in accident and emergency admissions over the last few weeks, with the situation in some parts of the country being described as reaching `crisis point’.
While health staff are battling to cope with the increased demand, county council social care staff including home care workers, residential care workers, social workers and managers are working extra hours, at weekends and in the evenings to support colleagues in the community.
They are putting services in place to avoid hospital admissions if possible and supporting the county’s acute and community hospitals to help with the discharge of people who are ready to leave.
Derbyshire County Council has been better equipped to support the winter pressures as a result of having direct access to its own in-house residential, day and home care services, with its own staff being able to work more flexibly.
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If a person has been seen at Accident and Emergency, a decision is made as to whether they are admitted to hospital or can go home or to other accommodation.
County council social care staff work closely with health colleagues at the point where someone is assessed as being able to be discharged from hospital.
A decision is then taken as to whether they can return home or need to go in residential or nursing care.
Decisions need to be made quickly so that beds are freed up in hospitals, and are not being used by people who do not need to be there.
While social care staff liaise with health colleagues all year round, more staff have now been drafted in to speed up the process and try to ensure hospital beds are not being blocked.
Social workers are now working seven days a week at the Royal Derby Hospital and Chesterfield Royal Hospital so they can carry out assessments on people who are ready to be discharged.
The county council has increased the number of home care workers - formerly called home helps - available by increasing their hours and has also increased the number of hours being worked by social workers across seven days a week.
This has helped social workers to organise home care for more people more quickly, so they can go home sooner.
Another move to help speed up the discharge process has been to make any spare beds in county council-run residential homes available if they are needed.
These can be used by people who do not need to be in hospital but need some extra care before returning home.
Social workers on the ground can identify where the best place is for people to be, and what care they need, and a specialist team at the council then identifies spare places in residential care homes to get people moved out of hospital sooner.
The team can also find nursing care places and other accommodation in the independent sector, as well as liaising with independent care agencies where necessary.
While senior managers regularly liaise with health colleagues around hospital discharges, conference calls are currently being held up to three times a day to ensure all that can be done is being done, and resources are being used to maximum effect.
The county council’s contact centre Call Derbyshire has also been supporting the work being carried out, with staff working tirelessly with community nursing services, GP practices, acute mental health trusts and acute hospitals, both within and on the county borders, to ensure referrals are taken as quickly as possible and passed on to social care frontline staff.
Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care Councillor Paul Smith said: “Even if people haven’t experienced it first hand, then they will have seen the headlines about the unprecedented pressures on hospitals and A&E departments in recent weeks.
“Derbyshire County Council works closely with health colleagues all year round and the plans to deal with situations like this are constantly being updated.
“We had a strong plan in place to deal with last year’s winter pressures, ensuring that we could provide enough staff on the ground to assist with getting people out of hospital and either back home with care in place or to suitable residential care.
“We left those resources in place as demand remained high, and they are now being strengthened further so that we can support our health colleagues and ensure people can leave hospital safely, whether that’s back home or to residential care.
“It is all about working together with other organisations to ensure the best care for people and so far this winter we believe the systems that are in place are working to the best effect.”
Councillor Smith added: “I would like to praise our staff and those in health who are working extra hours, giving up their time off and coming in at weekends to ensure that people are receiving care when and where they need it and are not spending time in hospital when they don’t need to be there.”
Stay well this winter by following these guidelines:
Lots of winter illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest. People should ensure they have in-date self-care treatments in their medicine cabinet including pain relief such as paracetamol, antihistamines, antacid tablets and first aid equipment such as plasters, tweezers, antiseptic cream or spray and a thermometer.
Many people are not aware that they can get advice on minor illnesses or managing long-term conditions from their local community pharmacy. If people need to see a doctor, they will be advised by the pharmacist.
If people have a sprain, strain, broken bone or wound infections, they can get help from a Minor Injuries Unit (MIU), rather than going to an Accident and Emergency Department (A&E).
Walk-in centres can give people health advice and treatment for minor injuries and ailments without an appointment.
The 111 line is the NHS free phone number to call when people need medical help fast, but it’s not an emergency. So if people are unsure about where to go, they should always call 111. The service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and is free.
The doctors’ surgery provides a wide range of services for people including general health checks and health improvement advice, vaccinations, examinations, treatments and prescriptions. A doctor can refer someone to other specialist services such as those provided by hospitals or social services if necessary.
Most GP surgeries are open early in the mornings or later in the evenings, and can offer same-day appointments should you need urgent advice.