‘Team Oxfordshire’ ready to tackle winter pressures
As we prepare for the busy winter months, health and social care professionals across the health and care system in Oxfordshire are building on their experience of working together throughout the year and during previous winters to deliver services.
Social services teams from Oxfordshire County Council are working closely with staff from the county’s hospitals, GP practices, community health services, ambulance services, mental health services and the voluntary sector to provide safe, effective, and sustainable care for people across the county.
Winter is a high-pressure season for health and social care services, with the colder temperatures and harsher weather conditions leading to increased demands on GPs and emergency departments as flu season begins.
This, paired with the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and seasonal flu, means that health and social care staff working as ‘Team Oxfordshire’ is especially important.
Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We all know that winter is the busiest season for health services, although pressures are now felt year-round. After another busy year, the winter team’s priority is to ensure that people who need medical treatment are able to access services to get the care they need.
“We continue to focus on our ‘Home First’ approach, and we’re also working hard with our health and social care colleagues to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. While it is important to get people home safely from hospital as soon as possible, we also have to address an earlier stage of the journey.
“We are continuing to increase the capacity to assess people in their own homes, as well as delivering assessment and treatments – this keeps people safely at home, promotes independence and helps us admit people to hospital only when they genuinely need acute care. A hospital is not always the most appropriate place for people and many people also want to be cared for closer to home.”
Emergency departments in Oxfordshire have already seen high attendances this year and the winter season typically adds to that pressure.
Sam added: “Emergency departments are for genuine emergencies. If you need medical help but it's not urgent, then your local pharmacy, minor injuries unit or GP will be best placed to help you. If you are unsure where to go for help, contact NHS 111 online which can provide advice and direct you to the best place for the care you need."
One of the best ways of keeping yourself and those around you well is to make sure you’re up to date with your flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster vaccination if you are in the groups these are recommended for.
Dr Ed Capo Bianco, a GP in Oxfordshire and Urgent Care Clinical Lead for BOB ICB, said: "It is important to keep yourself well this winter. Having a personal winter plan might include stocking up on the cold and flu medicines in your medicine cabinet at home, as well as thinking about other supplies that can help you manage if we have a cold snap.
“It is also important to make sure that if you do have a long-term condition like diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure, you take your prescribed medication and attend any review appointments that are due.
“The flu vaccine is one of the best ways of keeping yourself well and defending against what can often be a nasty illness. If you do get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill.”
GP practices will contact those patients eligible for the free flu jab and COVID-19 booster to attend vaccination clinics, which are taking place over the next few months in Oxfordshire.
An important part of continuing to work together is ensuring residents are supported outside of hospital, too. Oxfordshire County Council, working collaboratively across the health and care system, is also focusing on the 'Home First' initiative, which helps patients leaving hospitals identify what support they might need to regain independence and confidence at home.
Karen Fuller, Interim Corporate Director of Adult Social Care at Oxfordshire County Council, said: "To keep people safe and well over the winter period, it is important that we work together to provide the right support at the right time. This is a key priority for us across Oxfordshire.
"By continuing to work in this way, we are able to approach residents’ care collaboratively to provide the most appropriate support for people in their own homes - which has never been more important than now.
“One of our focuses this year is our Live Well Oxfordshire website, which is an incredibly useful resource with all kinds of information – from community support, information for carers, staying independent and activities in your local area.”
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will continue to provide community physical health services and mental health services, including the county’s out of hours GP service and minor injury units, Oxfordshire’s community hospitals, the Oxfordshire NHS 24/7 mental health helpline and health visiting and school nurse services.
Marie Crofts, Chief Nurse at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "It’s important, particularly during this challenging time, that we take a moment to prepare for winter, help one another and look after our whole wellbeing, as our physical and mental health are so closely linked.
“We are here to support people to stay healthy, live well and thrive, whether that’s providing clinical care at home or via our eight community hospitals, countywide district nursing teams, school nursing service, or help through our mental health teams.
“If you are an adult or young person struggling with your mental wellbeing, NHS help is at hand with the Oxfordshire NHS 24 hour mental health helpline through NHS 111 online.”
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) continues to see significant demand across its 999, 111 and patient transport services – much higher than expected for this time of year.
Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “We know what a difficult time this is for everyone and we greatly appreciate the support and understanding of the public as we continue to manage the significant pressures on our 999, 111 and patient transport services.”
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