Extra nurses and doctors deployed to tackle NHS winter demand in Lothian
Multi-million pound action plan as thousands of patients expected seek help
EXTRA nurses and doctors have been deployed by health chiefs in Lothian as part of an action plan to meet soaring demand during the winter months.
NHS Lothian said it had introduced a multi-million pound strategy to manage the predicted increase in the number of patients attending accident and emergency departments, minor injuries units and GPs by bolstering community and hospital services.
Details of the action plan came after health chiefs said last week that A&E departments across Edinburgh and the Lothians struggled to cope with demand during the festive period.
The health board said the “robust” action plan would ensure patients continued to receive the highest quality care throughout the busiest time of the year, between January and March.
The plan includes:
* Extra nurses, nurse practitioners and consultants deployed - some will be new recruits, others reassigned from their normal duties.
* Capacity increased and new clinics created.
* Pioneering initiatives in the community to make it easier for patients to access care and return home as soon as they are well.
* A dedicated acute respiratory nurse specialist allocated to A&E and Medical Assessment Units. A dedicated cardiology nurse practitioner will also be available to A&E.
* Beds ring-fenced for both elective surgery and emergency surgery to avoid operations being postponed.
* Flu testing for emergency medical patients when they arrive at A&E to avoid the infection being spread.
* Extra GP weekend cover for care homes to provide better continuity of care for patients to avoid hospital admissions and reduce pressure on A&E.
NHS Lothian said around £3.4m had been allocated to deliver the plan.
It is estimated hospitals and GP surgeries in Lothian will see more than 74,000 unscheduled attendances between January and March this year - up 34 per cent since 2010.
A&E waiting time figures released last week showed patients in Lothian had the worst chance of being seen within the four-hour target, with more than a quarter of those at the Royal Infirmary having to wait longer than that.
And yesterday, delayed discharge statistics for November showed Lothian with the highest number of bed days lost due to patients who were well enough to go home not being able to leave, often because care packages were not available.
Jacquie Campbell, NHS Lothian’s chief officer of acute services, said: “Every day our teams perform vital, lifesaving work, but they come under increasing pressure over winter. We have designed a plan that not only supports them, but also allows them to continue to provide the high quality, patient-centred care we are all so proud of.
“This diverse range of new initiatives and plans will help our frontline and community services to react in more responsive ways to the challenges that Winter brings.
“We are also working with and creating more community-based services to reduce the need for patients to come to hospital and then also ensure they can return home as soon as they are fit and well enough to do so.”