NHS England plans for a challenging winter

  • Date: 28 July 2023

NHS ENGLAND has set out preparations for a potentially challenging winter, with plans for 'care traffic control’ centres to speed up discharge, additional ambulance hours and extra hospital beds.

This is intended to “boost capacity and resilience across the NHS as well as building on the recent improvements in ambulance response times and A&E performance”.

NHS England plans a nationwide rollout of ‘care traffic control’ centres for staff to locate and co-ordinate discharge options for patients – either at home or into social or community care.

It says these centres will bring together teams from across NHS, social care, housing, and voluntary services in one place to help make “live decisions” and offer patients everything they need in one place.

An expected third of patients could be discharged using this model by December.

The NHS says it is bracing for the possibility of higher than usual levels of respiratory illness this winter, including Covid, flu and RSV. Australia has experienced one of the biggest flu seasons on record, with children making up four in five of flu-related hospital admissions.

Winter preparations in the UK have been underway since the publication of the NHS’s Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan, with Government pledging over 800 new ambulances to be deployed, as well as 5,000 more “sustainable” hospital beds and hundreds of new virtual ward beds each month.

Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS medical director for transformation, said: “The rapid expansion of ‘care traffic control’ centres, means patients can be more easily discharged with the right support when medically fit to leave hospital with the latest information available to staff in one spot – this is both better for patients and for the NHS."

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, commented: “The plan is based on sound evidence of what works and is backed by data and learning from the last few winters. Its publication now, in summer, will give the health service a timely opportunity to prepare for what will likely be an extremely challenging winter.”

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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