As winter starts to take hold, Surrey Heartlands is putting its extensive plans into place, with a £500,000 boost from NHS England/Improvement as part of a bid to fund additional care packages and online GP appointments.  

Surrey Heartlands winter planning has been under way since May, with a real focus on collaborative working across the system, particularly – at local level – on improving flow through Emergency Departments. 

However, while the system is working hard to mitigate any prolonged surge in demand as far as possible, all areas are already reporting significant pressure.  We’d like to take this opportunity to remind partners and colleagues to spread the messages about choosing the right services, and to only use A&E if it’s really an emergency.  By keeping well stocked medicine cabinets, keeping an eye on vulnerable friends and neighbours, using professionals such as pharmacists as the first port of call, we can all help to keep more urgent services, including GP and primary care services, for those who really need them.

We are also expecting a challenging flu season, so if you or friends/relatives are over 65, have a pre-existing condition (such as diabetes or asthma) or very young children, and please encourage everyone who is eligible to have the flu jab.  And of course that includes NHS and social care staff too!

Across the system, our preparations have included:

  • Work across our hospitals to reduce ambulance handover times in A&E (with a 17.5% improvement in handovers in less than 30 minutes);
  • Each area has plans in place to open escalation beds, along with community hospitals trialling changes to reduce lengths of stay in community wards.  Local Authorities are also working closely with colleagues across the various agencies to support and drive the ‘Home First’ principle.
  • GP Out of Hours services – contracted to provide robust out of hours arrangements between 5pm – 8.30am each weekday and throughout the weekends, further complimented by the ‘Improved Access’ initiative including Bank Holiday cover via the GP Federations.
  • The online GP service, LIVI, is now live across a number of areas across Surrey Heartlands, operating from 7.00 am to 10.00 pm on weekdays and 9.00 am to 5.00 pm at the weekends. In North West Surrey alone, LIVI has seen 22,866 appointments, providing significant support particularly to Out of Hours services.
  • Mental Health services now has a fully staffed Psychiatric Liaison Service 24/7 in all the acute hospitals, with additional funding enabling Epsom Hospital to launch a 24/7 service from November.

Once again a Surrey Heartlands Winter Review and planning event will be held in early May 2020 to reflect on and learn from this winter.