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Improved 111 service in Suffolk unveiled for winter pressures

PUBLISHED: 08:20 26 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:20 26 September 2018

Plans have been formed to help manage winter pressures at hospitals in Suffolk this winter Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Plans have been formed to help manage winter pressures at hospitals in Suffolk this winter Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Suffolk’s 111 health service is set to be relaunched this winter which will up the number of health professionals patients can speak to, it has emerged.

Richard Watson, deputy chief officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS West Suffolk CCG Picture: IESCCGRichard Watson, deputy chief officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS West Suffolk CCG Picture: IESCCG

Health organisations across Suffolk have come together to form a winter surge plan which features a host of measures aimed at tackling expected leaps in demand.

One of the key measures is increasing the number of beds available, with more in particular at West Suffolk Hospital which last winter experienced a 10% attendance increase.

A series of 28 ‘virtual’ beds are being established in Ipswich – beds at care homes – which will help improve the number of patients who can be discharged but continue having therapy or care that does not need to be in hospital.

The maximum target of beds is set at 92% bed occupancy, which the hospitals hope not to exceed.

A scale of priorities is also being outlined for operations during times of biggest pressure on emergency departments, and having more staff on during peak periods.

Richard Watson, deputy chief officer for Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said: “We are confident we have planned as much as we can for the extra pressure and demand in the winter period.

“We will also have a campaign over the winter months informing people how to use 111 and who they should call.

“The new 111 is launching on the first of November with Care UK and Suffolk GP Federation and will have much more focus on triaging people.

“Rather than speak to a call advisor, more of those will be going through to a trained clinician.”

The winter plan published ahead of Tuesday’s Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG governing body meeting said that A&E attendances were up last winter at both Ipswich and West Suffolk Hospitals, and said that Ipswich felt the “acuity of patients was greater than previous years, with the majority of patients frail.”

The report added: “The winter period of 2017/18 was a challenge nationally for all health and social care providers, and whilst Suffolk had good plans in place we were not exempt from these.”

The plans are set to be closely monitored by an escalation team that can make any changes and react quickly to build ups of pressure.

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