The trust which runs Pilgrim Hospital has been preparing for the winter season well in advance this year, working in partnership with other organisations to prevent pressures building up.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been co-ordinating with other agencies, such as the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Lincolnshire Community Health Services, to come up with plans to deal with the extreme pressure.
It follows an extended period of the hospital being in level four Black Alert – the highest measure possible – for two weeks straight at the beginning of this year.
Director of operations Tina White told The Standard: “This year we have been preparing for a number of months. We’re looking at putting a lot more resources into discharging and improving our operational flow across the site.
“As people flow in, we’re aiming to make sure that we are discharging people in a timely way.”
She said that a lot of the problems last year were caused by factors beyond the hospital’s control, including the closure of two ‘massive’ care homes and an outbreak of norovirus.
This year, she said there were new systems in place, including a new Clinical Assesment Service, which aims to direct people where they need to be more efficiently and advise them as to other solutions than A&E if possible – such as seeing a GP or pharmacist.
The CCG has also commissioned a ‘lot more care and support’, while Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, the county’s provider of mental health services, has offered to make beds available in its units for ‘step down’ facilities – which help with the discharge process – if the services allow.
Director of Operations for Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Ian Jerams, said: “The Trust is actively looking at how we can support the local health and care system in Lincolnshire during periods of increased demand.
“We are currently introducing an extended mental health hospital liaison service at all three United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust sites and for Lincolnshire patients within Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals.
“The service will help deliver specialist assessment for patients presenting at hospital with mental health problems and arrange appropriate support. In addition, the team will assist in timely discharge for these patients back to community care, or alternative specialist units if required.”
Lincolnshire County Council and the Lincolnshire Community Health Services will also be looking at what support they can give outside of the hospital in areas such as respite care.