Extra investment in local health services to boost winter capacity and speed up hospital discharge


Health and care partners in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) are investing an extra £40m into services to boost capacity and speed up hospital discharge during the challenging winter months.

Planning for this winter began in February, with significant extra funding allocated to winter schemes to maintain safe and effective care for local people.

Hospital discharge is a high priority, with almost £20m allocated to schemes that help more people return home promptly but safely after a hospital stay, freeing up much-needed hospital beds. They include increased capacity in local ‘virtual ward’ and home rehabilitation services, as well as expanded ‘care transfer’ hubs in local hospitals bringing together NHS, social care and voluntary sector staff to support faster discharge.

Local urgent and emergency care services have also been boosted with over £16.5m extra investment in services that help to reduce hospital admissions. They include expanded urgent community response teams, providing urgent care to people in their own homes in order to avoid hospital admission. There is also extra investment in ‘same day emergency care’ services that provide rapid assessment and treatment at A&E to help emergency care patients to go home safely the same day, if possible, without needing an overnight stay.

Other areas of investment include an additional £2.9m for extra ambulance capacity, and £0.6m for community acute respiratory infection services, to help reduce the numbers attending A&E with respiratory conditions.

Services will be supported by a new, 24/7 System Co-ordination Centre hosted by the BNSSG NHS Integrated Care Board and bringing together local ambulance, hospital, community healthcare, social care, general practice staff  and mental health service partners to manage winter pressures.

The measures are backed up by a new public communications campaign, Stay Well This Winter, promoting vaccination uptake and guiding people to the right services for their needs, including pharmacy for minor ailments and NHS 111 online for advice on urgent care needs.

BNSSG Integrated Care Board chief executive Shane Devlin said: “Winter is always a challenging time for health and care services, with the colder weather and increase in respiratory infections leading to greater pressure on our hospitals.

“But hospitals are only one part of our health and care system and by caring for more people at home and in the community, and making it easier for people to go home following a hospital stay, we can relieve pressure on the hospital ‘pinch points’ and keep services running safely and effectively.

“We’ve invested significant extra funding into discharge services, as well as new urgent and emergency care services in the community and at the hospital ‘front door’, and this will stand us in good stead as we enter the winter months.

“However we depend on people doing their bit as well, by taking up vaccinations when they’re offered and by using services wisely. This year we’ve launched a new campaign to help people access the right care at the right time and we’re encouraging people to visit our website, and talk to healthcare professionals including NHS 111, to make sure they get the best service for their needs.”

The Stay Well This Winter campaign features winter illness advice from local clinicians, together with guidance on local health and care services and links to information about local authority warm places and support with winter fuel bills. It is available on the Healthier Together website.