Northants health bosses draw up plan to prevent winter crisis

Kettering and Northampton general hospitals
Kettering and Northampton general hospitals

The county’s health and social care services are pioneering a new way of working this winter in a bid to prevent another seasonal crisis.

In a national first, the county’s acute and community hospitals have joined with GP surgeries and social care to commission a demand and capacity plan that should lead to less hospital admissions this winter and shorter stays for patients.

Last winter the county’s two acute hospitals Kettering General Hospital and Northampton General Hospital came under extreme pressure having to focus on just emergency care and cancelling a number of planned operations.

Between Christmas Eve and January 2 this year the two hospitals both admitted more than 760 patients with an average age of 74 and struggled to discharge enough patients to free up beds for emergencies.

In a bid to stop the same situation happening this year and following strong criticism in the summer of their joint working practices by independent regulator the Care Quality Commission, Northamptonshire’s health and social care services have put together a plan of new initiatives to keep the health system from entering crisis as the weather turns colder.

These include:

- Setting up a hospital discharge team made up of health and social care staff who will work together to free up beds quicker

- Bringing in a trusted assessor system so that people admitted from a care home are assessed in the hospital before discharge rather than it needing to be done by a care home manager

- Increasing the use of step down social care beds so that more intensive need beds are freed up

- Increasing the use of sheltered housing for those leaving hospital

The report put together by Northamptonshire County Council’s director of adult social care Anna Earnshaw says: “The demand and capacity tool being developed has been successfully used elsewhere to reduce acute hospital bed pressure, reduce admissions and reduce long stays.

“But we will be the first system nationally to cover primary care too as we know that GPs are under pressure and demand is high for emergency appointments this will often lead to A & E pressure within 48-72 hours.”

Speaking at the health and wellbeing board last week (September 13) Anna Earnshaw  said: “If we can make sure not as many people go in to hospital and and they don’t stay too long then we have better outcomes and lower costs for social care.

“It’s all about what we can do differently this winter.

“We have some challenges but we will make a difference.”

The changes are being made against a backdrop of budget cuts.

The county council is currently devising a master plan of which services will be reduced  as it needs to make £60m of savings by April.

Adult social care is the biggest area of the council’s budget with £186.6m spent on services.

This equates to just over 40 per cent of the authority’s annual £441m budget.