The health and care system is under significant strain – with all staff, particularly those on the front line, under daily pressure to do more and work harder.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures – which is exactly what teams across organisations are coming together to put in place. Every year each region of England receives additional funding from NHS England for extra capacity as the weather turns colder – this year the money has to go further than ever. The pot for services in Merton and Wandsworth is £4.5 million. Councils in south west London will also receive a share of the new national £500 million adult social care discharge fund created by the government.
On top of the extra money, health and care organisations work in partnership all year round to make sure people get the right care. It’s about treating people for medical conditions, but also helping them transition back to their lives when they can – the sooner the better for their long-term health and wellbeing.
To fund new projects by ICS partners that improve care, two grants programmes worth £6.7 million in total have been launched across south west London – one to fund innovation and another to tackle health inequalities.
What the extra £4.5m of winter funding is being spent on?
A large proportion of the money is going to the most used hospitals in the boroughs – St George’s and St Helier – which have been allocated £3.15 million. At St George’s, the funding is being used for extra staff and equipment in the Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centre – with a new ‘floor streamer’ role to help manage the increasing numbers coming through the doors; more staff to support the process of helping people go home; and a new ‘frailty zone’ specifically for older more vulnerable people.
At St Helier, GPs in Sutton will be running a community hospital on site to provide extra beds for short term medical and therapy care to help people get back on their feet more quickly. The borough of Sutton has received an additional £900,000 to fund this work.
Funding will also go to other organisations involved in helping people leave hospital – social care teams at Merton and Wandsworth Councils (£875,000 and £710,000 respectively) and community services provider Central London Community Healthcare (£790,000).
One area of focus is support with mental health needs, such as dementia. ‘Brokerage teams’, who put care home arrangements in place to help to help people stay out of hospital or return home will also work seven days a week and for longer hours.
As well as investing in tried and tested measures, new initiatives are also starting to ease the journey through the care people receive. For example, who knew a handy person would be so critical? Often one of the reasons people can’t leave hospital is because temporary changes are needed to their homes to allow care to be delivered there. This could be a key safe, so carers can let themselves in, or anything to allow equipment to be installed.
Additional roles at London Ambulance Service (£70,000) will speed up the transfer of care from paramedics to A&E doctors and prevent delays.
Other initiatives in place to meet increasing needs
Cost of living support – the increasing cost of living is having an impact on people’s health and wellbeing, especially as the weather turns colder and energy prices rise. Local councils are investing in new schemes to help the most vulnerable find the right support, as well as bolstering existing schemes to help people access healthy food and warm spaces. Voluntary sector organisations continue to go above and beyond to offer wide-ranging support.
Vaccination – ensuring eligible people have access to the winter vaccinations that protect them from serious illness. These include Covid-19 autumn boosters and flu vaccinations for the over 50s and other eligible groups as well as our evergreen offer of Covid vaccinations for people who have missed earlier doses. While our remaining mass vaccination, sites such as Centre Court, Wimbledon, close on 23 December, vaccinations will continue to be available to everyone who needs them at GP practices, pharmacies and pop-up venues across Merton and Wandsworth.
New roles in GP practices offering appointments sooner – different kinds of clinicians are playing an increasingly important part in the care GP practices are offering their patients. NHS England has funded the recruitment of nearly 500 new members of staff across South West London, increasing the numbers of appointments and reducing waiting times. For example, clinical pharmacists help patients get access to the medicines they need and paramedics are carrying out urgent home visits, where appropriate.
A new approach to mental health – the New Testament Assembly Church in Tooting now houses mental health support services, designed by and for the community they serve. The idea is to care for people who aren’t accessing services through traditional NHS routes. The hub feels very different from traditional NHS care and offers a space for conversations about life’s challenges with new, culturally-adapted support services.
Care from the comfort of home – the NHS is offering support to people who would normally be in hospital, so they can go home earlier – or avoid going in to hospital altogether. This is called ‘hospital at home’. Often used for patients whose illness is related to frailty, it is a safe alternative to inpatient stays with a high level of monitoring by doctors and nurses. Hospital at home is described by patients’ families as “massively reassuring” and “an unbelievable service.”
Improved service at Queen Mary’s, reducing waiting times – the Queen Mary’s enhanced primary care hub offers urgent appointments for issues like burns, cuts, grazes, wounds, earache, broken arms and sprained ankles. A local phoneline has enabled lots more people to use the service and get the treatment they need quicker.
New Urgent Treatment Centre – a newly-built UTC has opened at St George’s to help provide the best possible care for patients with minor injuries and illnesses. The unit helps support the Emergency Department focus on care for life-threatening conditions. It replaces temporary arrangements created during the pandemic
National funding for more diagnostic appointments – the local NHS was awarded £10 million last year to invest in a new ‘one stop shop’ at Queen Mary’s Hospital, offering a large range of tests and scans to increase capacity and speed up diagnosis, making services more convenient.