NHS England has announced plans to help speed up patients’ discharge this winter, including additional ambulance hours, extra beds and new ‘care traffic control centres’.
The new measures, due to be set out at the NHS England board meeting in Birmingham today, will ‘boost capacity and resilience’ across the NHS this winter, it said.
A nationwide rollout of ‘care traffic control centres’ will provide ‘one stop’ for staff to locate and co-ordinate the best and quickest discharge options for patients, according to NHS England.
The centres are expected to bring together teams from across NHS, social care, housing, and voluntary services in one place to help ‘make live decisions and offer patients everything they need in one place’.
Around a quarter of local areas currently offer this service 12 hours a day, seven days a week and this is set to expand to every area of the country by winter, NHS England said.
The commissioner expects a third of patients to be discharged using this model by December, drawing information from electronic patient records to track patients and link up with housing services.
The NHS will also be announcing a new scheme to encourage local teams to ‘overachieve’ on performance measures with financial incentives provided for these areas.
At the monthly board meeting today, the NHS will also outline how it is bracing for another winter facing the possibility of higher than usual levels of respiratory illness including Covid, flu and RSV.
The use of Acute Respiratory Hubs, for urgent same-day face-to-face assessment for conditions like Covid, flu and RSV, will also be expanded to be available in every part of the country.
Hospitals are putting more beds in place for patients and are on track to hit 5,000 additional ‘core’ permanent general and acute beds.
Plans will also be put in place to ‘strengthen ambulance response to mental health calls, to raise the profile of all-age 24/7 urgent mental health helplines’ and to avoid long lengths of stay in mental health inpatient settings.
Sarah-Jane Marsh, NHS national director of urgent and emergency care, said: ‘Ahead of winter we will not only have more ambulances and beds in place, but we will also be continuing to work more closely as an entire NHS and social care system, increasing the capacity of community services that help keep patients safe at home.
‘We will continue to build on this progress and do everything we can to put the NHS on the front foot ahead of what has the potential to be another challenging winter with covid and flu.’
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS medical director for transformation, said: ‘The rapid expansion of ‘care traffic control’ centres, means patients can be more easily discharged with the right support when medically fit to leave hospital with the latest information available to staff in one spot – this is both better for patients and for the NHS.’
At the beginning of the year, GPs urged the Government to put in place ‘radical’ solutions to ease pressure on general practice and urgent care in the winter months, such as purchasing remote care from abroad.