County prepared for winter health and social care pressures

County Hall, Northallerton.

Health and social care leaders say they are confident North Yorkshire is well prepared for surging demand for key services in the coming months as winter infections appear to be taking a grip.

The county council’s director of health Richard Webb was speaking after recently warning that if government grants to cover winter pressures end in March, then there will need to be significant cuts to social care services, and, in particular, to the additional support to hospitals for rapid patient discharges.

The most recent data for shows by August North Yorkshire had achieved a 67 per cent reduction in adult social care-related delays of patients being discharged from hospital.

Health bosses say reducing the number of people attending acute healthcare settings who don’t need to be there is vital if hospitals are to keep sufficient capacity over winter and have warned that while services in the county generally coped quite well last year, this was “possibly assisted by a relatively mild winter”.

Mr Webb told a meeting of the county council’s leaders that not only had there been more investment in support to get people out of hospitals this year, but ‘transfer of care coordinators’ had been in post for six weeks on hospital wards to cut delays further. He added: “The feedback I am getting is very positive.”

The authority’s adult services and health boss Councillor Michael Harrison said winter pressures often resulted in issues over staffing and availability of care.

He said: “That’s where we will often step in and use our own staff to act as a bridge. We may provide some care for some time directly when otherwise we are waiting for that care to be passed over to the private sector.”

Mr Webb added: “I am always nervous about saying are we super-ready. We are as ready as we can be. We have got a well organised way of operating throughout the year, particularly in winter. The real challenge will be if we have a really sustained period of bad weather on multiple sites, but I’m confident we are as ready as we can at this stage.”

Earlier this week the NHS in North Yorkshire called on residents and communities for help to prevent the spread of winter infections, such as influenza or norovirus, in hospitals, which can lead to entire wards being shut down.

Risedale College and Carnagill Community Primary School, in Catterick Garrison, have both closed for two days this week following an outbreak of the virus.

In addition, on Tuesday, parents of pupils in the Thirsk area were sent a letter stating there was a significant level of school absence, possibly associated with a norovirus outbreak.

The letter stated: “It seems a good time to remind everyone of good housekeeping to ensure we are protecting ourselves against a similar issue –  if your son or daughter is absent through sickness, please keep them at home for 48 hours after the sickness has passed.”