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'Team Oxfordshire' coming together again to tackle winter pressures

13/10/2021

As we move into the busy winter months, health and social care professionals across the system will be building on their experience of working together throughout the year and in previous winters to deliver services.

Staff from hospitals, GPs, social services, community health services, ambulance services, mental health services, and third sector partners are working together to provide safe, effective, and sustainable care for people across Oxfordshire.

Winter is a high-pressure season for health and social care services, with the colder temperatures and harsher weather conditions leading to increased demands on GPs and Emergency Departments as flu season begins. This, paired with the ongoing impact of COVID-19, means that health and social care staff working as 'Team Oxfordshire' is especially important.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We all know that winter is the most pressured season for health services. After another busy year, the winter team's priority is to ensure that people who need medical treatment are able to access services so they get the care they need.

"We are still focused on our 'Home First' approach, making sure that people who really need hospital care can be seen, while people can be treated closer to home when safe and appropriate.

"COVID-19 hasn't gone away, and the impact is still being felt across the health and social care system. It's as important as ever that people have a winter plan, look after themselves and stay healthy, and use healthcare services in the most appropriate way."

Emergency Departments in Oxfordshire have already very high attendances this year, and the winter season typically adds to that pressure, something which is seen across the country.

Sam added: "Emergency Departments are for genuine emergencies - if you need medical help but it's not urgent, then your local Pharmacy, Minor Injuries Unit, or GP will be best-placed to help you. If you are unsure where to go for help, contact NHS 111 who can provide advice and direct you to the best place for the care you need."

People are urged to have a winter plan for themselves and their family so they know what they need to do to keep as well as possible, what they can do if they become unwell, and how they can look after more vulnerable neighbours who may not be able to look after themselves.

One of the best ways of keeping yourself and those around you well is to make sure you're up-to-date with your flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster vaccination if you are the categories this is recommended for.

Dr Ed Capo Bianco, Urgent Care Lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "It is more important than ever to keep yourself well this winter. Having a personal winter plan might include stocking up on the cold and flu medicines in your medicine cabinet at home, as well as thinking about other supplies that can help you manage if we have a cold snap. It is also important to make sure that if you do have a long-term condition like diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure you take your prescribed medication and attend any review appointments that are due.

"The flu vaccine is important every year, but this year we have to consider that more people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the pandemic. If you do get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill. Getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 will protect you and those around you from both of these serious illnesses."

GP practices will contact those patients eligible for the free flu jab and COVID-19 booster to attend vaccination clinics which are taking place over the next few months in Oxfordshire.

More information on who is eligible for a free flu jab is available on the NHS website.

An important part of continuing to work together is ensuring residents are supported outside of hospital, too. Oxfordshire County Council, working collaboratively across the health and care system, is also focusing on the 'Home First' initiative, which helps patients leaving hospitals identify what support they might need to regain independence and confidence at home.

Karen Fuller, Deputy Director of Adult Services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: "To keep people safe and well over the winter period, it is important that we work together to provide the right support at the right time This is a key priority for us across Oxfordshire.

"By continuing to work in this way, we are able to approach residents' care collaboratively to provide the most appropriate support for people in their own homes - which has never been more important than now."

Oxford Health will also continue provide community physical health services and mental health services, working across the health and social care to support local people during  winter which can being a particularly challenging time for wellbeing.

Marie Crofts, Chief Nurse at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "It's important, particularly during this challenging time, that we take a moment to prepare for winter, help one another and look after our whole wellbeing, as our physical and mental health is so intrinsically linked.

"No matter what your age, we are here to support people to stay healthy, live well and thrive, whether that’s providing clinical care at home or via our eight community hospitals, county-wide district nursing teams, school nursing service, or help through our mental health teams.

"If you are an adult or young person struggling with your mental wellbeing, NHS help is at hand with our 24-hour mental health helpline via NHS 111.

"Please make sure you have both your flu and COVID vaccinations when asked to do so, so that you have that vital protection. You can book your primary COVID-19 course and booster dose, when appropriate, at the Kassam Stadium via the NHS national booking service. We're asking all our front line staff to have their immunisations so that we can protect you, so please help the NHS help you by getting yours."

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) continues to see significant demand across its 999, 111, and patient transport services – much higher than expected for this time of year.

Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said: "We know what a difficult time this is for everyone and we greatly appreciate the support and understanding of the public as we continue to manage the significant pressures on our 999, 111, and patient transport services."