As we prepare for the busy winter months, health and social care professionals across Oxfordshire are building on their experience of working together throughout the year and during previous winters.
Colleagues from the county’s hospitals, GP practices, social services, community health services, ambulance services, mental health services, and voluntary sector are working together as ‘Team Oxfordshire’ to provide safe, effective, and sustainable care for people across the county.
Care closer to home
One particular focus for the team this year is providing more support to patients at home. Colleagues from health and social care organisations have been working collaboratively to provide hospital level care in people’s homes, with a particular focus on tackling the additional pressure winter puts on healthcare services.
‘Hospital at Home’ and its supporting systems offer pioneering approaches to reduce the number of patients admitted to hospital and support those who, if medically appropriate, can receive care in their own home or in a care home. Social care teams are also developing new systems to improve the flow from hospital through the Home First pathway and Discharge to Assess programme.
Sara Randall, Chief Operating Officer at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH), said: “Collaborative working across the health and social care system is a vital part of managing pressures year-round, and especially during the challenging winter months.
“The team’s innovative approach to providing hospital-level care in people’s homes is something we really want to focus on – we know that people get better quicker and return to doing things they enjoy sooner by recovering safely in their own home. It also means people are only admitted to hospital when they really need to be here.”
The team’s ‘Home First’ approach is just as important for social care. Oxfordshire County Council is focusing on not only reducing admissions to hospital by supporting more people at home, but also helping patients to leave hospital more quickly, and to identify what support they might need to regain independence.
Karen Fuller, Interim Director of Adult Social Care 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.
“Each week more than 30,000 hours of home care is provided for people in the county. This reflects our Oxfordshire Way vision to support more people to live well and independently within their own communities for as long as possible. Importantly, it includes enabling more residents to return home from hospital as soon as possible through our Home First pathway, supporting individuals to recover more quickly, and regain their independence.
“Once individuals are back home and settled, our Live Well Oxfordshire website provides a wealth of information to enable people to stay well – from community support, information for carers, staying independent, and activities in your local area.”
Keeping yourself well and up-to-date with winter vaccinations
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 in the groups these are recommended for.
Dr Ed Capo Bianco, a GP in Oxfordshire and Urgent Care Clinical Lead for BOB ICB, said: “It is important to keep yourself well this winter, and to look out for frail or elderly neighbours and family members. 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 particularly cold weather.
“The flu and COVID vaccines are one of the best ways of keeping yourself well, and defending against what can often be nasty illnesses. If you do get flu and COVID at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill.”
Supporting people’s mental health this winter
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will continue to provide community physical health services and mental health services, including the county’s out-of-hours GP service and Minor Injury Units, Oxfordshire’s community hospitals, the Oxfordshire NHS 24/7 Mental Health Helpline, and a range of other services to meet the needs of the local population during winter.
Marie Crofts, Chief Nurse at Oxford Health, 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 are so closely linked.
“We are here to support people to stay healthy, live well and thrive, whether that’s focusing on providing clinical care at home, through our eight community hospitals, county-wide district nursing teams, school nursing service, or help through our local mental health teams.
“If you are an adult or young person struggling with your mental wellbeing, NHS help is at hand with the Oxfordshire NHS 24-hour mental health helpline via NHS 111 online.”
Emergency services and 999
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.
Kirsten Willis-Drewett, Head of Operations for Oxfordshire and Berkshire 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 in collaboration with our partners.”
Help us to help you
Patients and residents across the BOB region (so Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire areas) are being urged to do everything they can to get ‘winter ready’ by:
- Taking up the offer of free flu and COVID vaccinations if they are in eligible groups
- Using NHS 111 for advice on the most appropriate service for their needs
- Continuing to contact their GP practice about worrying symptoms
- Speaking to a pharmacist about minor illnesses
- Only using 999 and hospital Emergency Departments for life-threatening conditions
- Making sure they get repeat prescriptions in time for weekends and bank holidays
- Stocking up on over-the-counter medicines
- Looking out for vulnerable family members, friends, and neighbours.
Dr Rachael de Caux, Chief Medical Officer from the BOB Integrated Care Board which manages health services in the area, said: “Winter is always a busy time for the NHS and comes at the end of a year which has already seen all our teams under significant pressure.
“The focus this winter is on all parts of the health and social care system working together through our system winter plan. Thanks to the hard work which goes on every day across our BOB system we are aiming to put the NHS and social care on the front foot in supporting patients and local communities get the care they need.”
Rachael Corser, Chief Nursing Officer from the BOB Integrated Care Board, said: “Our colleagues across NHS and care services continue to do an exceptional job in incredibly challenging circumstances, and we also need to thank local people for their ongoing support in using NHS services responsibly, and for showing respect and kindness towards health and care professionals.”