NHS ‘war room’ goes live in Northamptonshire as hospitals gear up for busiest winter ever

Regional chief says clinicians monitoring data and resources will help more patients be seen quickly
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A new state-of-the-art NHS 'traffic control centre' has gone live in Northamptonshire preparing for what experts fear could be the busiest winter ever.

The 24/7 coordination centre — dubbed a ‘winter war room’ — was among measures announced in October as part of the NHS winter response plan, alongside falls response teams, new hubs dedicated to serious respiratory infections and additional bed capacity. Teams, including senior clinicians, will track data in real time to help them make quick decisions in the face of emerging challenges.

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Coordination centre staff will monitor a range of live data including A&E performance and waiting times, staff sickness rates, ambulance response times, bed occupancy and OPEL status. It is hoped they will be able to divert ambulances away from full hospitals so patients have a better chance of being seen quickly with teams also monitoring bed tracking and forecasting models for social care and primary care demand.

Clinicians monitoring live data will be able to direct ambulances from NHS hospitals including NGH and KGH if they are fullClinicians monitoring live data will be able to direct ambulances from NHS hospitals including NGH and KGH if they are full
Clinicians monitoring live data will be able to direct ambulances from NHS hospitals including NGH and KGH if they are full

Northamptonshire's two acute NHS hospitals at Northampton and Kettering should be able to plan for particular pressures over weekends, Christmas and major events.

Earlier this week, NGH’s chief executive was forced to apologise for long wait times and patients being told to queue in a tent outside A&E. Heidi Smoult said: “We are seeing a lot more patients coming to our ED who are really unwell and need to be admitted — we have also started to see an increase in Covid, flu and norovirus cases in the hospital.”

Jess Sokolov, Regional Medical Director for NHS England in the Midlands, said: “These centres will play a vital role in the sharing and use of live information to drive smarter and faster decision-making by NHS teams. We have clinicians across the region working around the clock monitoring data from frontline services to help spread resources and make the best possible decisions for both staff and patients.”

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More than 40 centres are live across England, including five in the East Midlands. They will open seven days a week and fully staffed between 8am and 8pm, with on call arrangements overnight.

It comes as NHS data showed hundreds of hospital beds nationwide are being taken up by patients with flu — more than ten times the number seen at the beginning of December last year.

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Statistics also showed more than 19 in 20 adult general and acute beds were occupied in the week to 20 November, with over 13,000 beds a day taken up by patients medically fit for discharge.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “With recent data hitting home the significant pressure staff are facing – with 10 times more flu cases in hospital than we saw going into winter last year, and thousands of beds taken up by patients medically fit for discharge – it has never been more important for the NHS to introduce these important and innovative planning measures ahead of what is likely to be one of our most challenging winters yet.

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"The public can play its part by using NHS services in the usual way: calling 999 in emergencies and using 111 online for other health conditions; and vaccines remain an important protection against serious illness, so please come forward if you’re eligible.”