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Vale of York CCG introduces ‘winter-proofing’ scheme to reduce pressure on busy A&E

Hospitals and A&E departments experience increased numbers of admissions during the winter period and in York the pressure continues to grow.

To overcome increased winter pressures, NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has launched a ‘winter-proofing’ scheme which focusses on Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) managing patients with urgent care needs as close to home as appropriate.

Having already reached the middle of winter, weather across North Yorkshire has been relatively mild so far. However, some longer range forecast models suggest that we are expecting colder weather on the horizon.

To assist the flow of patients through the health and social care system during the extremely busy period, the CCG is working closely with its partners to launch a number of schemes to reduce unnecessary attendances and admissions to hospital and fight back against norovirus, flu and other pressures that our local healthcare services have to cope with throughout the winter months.

Dr Andrew Phillips, the CCG lead for the Urgent Care Programme, said: “Joined up working in health and social care is important at all times, even more so when winter arrives.

“Using the winter pressures money allocated to the Vale of York, we are working very closely with our partners to address the challenges that winter poses and ensure that the flow through our hospitals runs smoothly.

“We are piloting a range of schemes, including the expansion of Emergency Care Practitioner availability, to help better support patients in the most appropriate settings.”

An ECP is a paramedic or nurse who has had extended training to treat and discharge patients with minor injuries and illnesses in their own home. They are able to carry out basic medical procedures such as wound repair and can also administer a number of medications such as antibiotics. They will also act to speak with GP’s or other care providers or work with care homes where they think a change to medication or frequency of care is required.

The scheme aims to manage more people in their homes quickly, rather than taking them to A&E. Initial results from this scheme show that the ECP’s may treat half the people they see in this way. Patients often prefer to stay at home where possible and avoid the anxiety of a journey to A&E, the potential long waits and the possibility of an overnight stay.

There are existing protocols in place which ECPs follow to ensure patients are managed safely. ECPs will use their enhanced skills to assess and treat, refer or convey to alternative care sites where clinically appropriate.

This innovative way of working means that many patients can be treated in their own home and aims to reduce pressure on A&E and unplanned admissions at York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust.

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