Pumpkin Spiced Lattes are back, Michael Bublé has announced a new album in time for the holidays and Christmas decorations have appeared in John Lewis. It’s official, summer is over and we’re now in big coat season. Now, whether your spirit animal is Buddy the Elf or The Grinch, one thing we can all agree on is that the winter weather brings problems. Transport is thrown into a state of perpetual chaos, our boots never seem to be waterproof like we thought, and everywhere you look, someone has a cold. It’s the latter of these side-effects of winter that can be the most concerning, as the never-ending stream of colds or the flu between October and April put additional pressure on the health services in our country, during their busiest time.
Winter brings snow, ice, sleet and rain which increases the number of people going to A&E for road collisions, falls and other weather-induced accidents; which means that hospitals are filled to capacity on a regular basis, and waiting rooms overfill with emergencies and non-emergencies alike. There’s no denying the situation isn’t ideal. With this in mind, the government has recognised that there are concerns for hospitals and GPs not being able to meet the demand during the colder months and will be injecting £145million in emergency funding into the NHS, focusing on updating wards and adding extra beds. This additional funding is set to work in conjunction with a 3.4% five-year funding increase, however as the next few months is when the health services are under strain, the money is needed now. In addition to a larger quantity of emergencies being brought to a hospital door, there are also countless vulnerable people for whom a cold or the flu is a serious issue. Children and older adults are much more susceptible to the flu which means regularly they need help from a medical professional – whether at a GP’s surgery or a hospital. Hence, both the NHS and private options face a vast amount of demand for their services with the combination of infections and accidents, alongside their regular patient intake.
In an attempt to make this winter period as smooth as possible, hospitals are being encouraged to work with other local services in an effort to minimise unnecessary hospital occupancy. This involves those who need medical care on a regular basis, but are not emergencies; and therefore, are potentially taking hospital services away from someone else with a more pressing illness. Considering this, the social care sector is being called to action, as many care homes or at home care providers have the skills to care for older adults or people with an illness who usually would turn to a hospital. Hospitals are working closely with local at home care providers to hope to transfer stable patients to a home care set-up, in order to free up services. This represents the social care services being given more recognition for the skill and quality of care provided, as some are being deemed sufficient for patients who are in hospital or need regular medical consultations.
By reducing the pressure of regular patients who can receive the same level of care elsewhere, the health services are free to focus more of their attention on critical cases that only crop up during winter months. Elderly people who need regular monitoring or care can receive the same attention from care workers, and can even allow them to be cared for in their own homes. Which surely, is something many will respond well to rather than staying in a hospital during the depths of winter. After all, older people are more likely to develop a case of pneumonia or bronchitis so keeping them away from areas where ill people collect will help keep them healthier.
The NHS is already a structure in need of help, and so not being prepared for the winter madness could be the straw that breaks that camels back. Having the right systems in place, before all the flu panic and Christmas tree related injuries begin, could be the way the whole of the UK gets through winter. In order to achieve this though, we need to all collaborate. The social care sector is a key player in the game, however in order to properly prepare for winter, it’ll take everyone. Use antibacterial hand-wash to stop the spread of germs, stay home if you have the flu so that you don’t infect your whole office/school, consider the severity of your ailment before you book a GP appointment or go to A&E, help out any elderly relatives or neighbours so they’re not at risk in the cold… there are small steps we can all take that will ensure we support the NHS throughout their busiest time.
So, let’s get preparing, because well, winter is coming.
By Elena Jones, Marketing Executive at One Stop Social.