Trust prepares for the winter

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust is preparing for the anticipated increase in demand for services throughout the winter period.

Based on experiences last year, the trust is planning on the basis of a potential further 10 per cent increase in the number of patients attending Emergency Departments over the winter period.

It would also expect an associated increase in the number of patients who need admitted to hospital because of their complex medical needs.

The trust has put together a range of measures to deal with this potential increased demand including: Extra beds to open in both Craigavon and Daisy Hill Hospitals; Flexibility to open extra beds in Loane House and Lurgan Hospital when there is extra demand; Continued development of Acute Care at Home to prevent admissions to hospital; Enhancing the GP Out of Hours service with nursing and pharmacy staff; Commitment of staff to change working patterns and extend services across seven days to support patient discharge; Escalation plans when there is a surge in demand, for example ambulance diverts and quickly activating additional staff.

Whilst we have measures in place to cope with the traditional rising number of patients and our staff will always do everything they can to treat everyone as quickly and safely as possible, we ask for the continued support of our local media in helping to raise awareness of key messages during this time.

As we move into the busy winter period when there is more, cold/flu, vomiting, diarrhoea and infections in the community, the trust is asking for people to be particularly vigilant when it comes to infection prevention and control. Southern Trust hospitals continue to have some of the lowest rates of infection, but the public is asked to respect the Visiting Guidance guidelines and practise good Hand Hygiene.

The regional Choose Well campaign which runs each winter aims to help people gain a better understanding of the health services available to treat everything from a common cold to a major emergency. In the Southern area the trust complements this campaign locally by promoting its own range of services and to help people to choose the best service to meet their needs.