An action plan to help Wigan’s beleaguered health services tackle the tricky winter months has been launched with a plea for residents to play their part.
With less hospitable weather conditions on the way, service chiefs say the steps are necessary to ease the strain on already heavily taxed services.
The winter resilience plan, which was being presented to a town hall committee this week, includes steps to lighten the burden placed on the town’s A&E department.
It also recommends measures to reduce bed-blocking in hospitals and ambulance call-outs.
Dr Tim Dalton, chair of the borough’s health and wellbeing board, said residents can help by making “smart choices”.
He told the Evening Post: “We all know that winter is the hardest time for health and social care services because it makes people more vulnerable to illnesses and to injuries from falls.
“We are committed to ensuring that all patients get access to high quality, safe care throughout the challenging winter months.
“By using a pharmacy for all minor illnesses, you help keep a GP appointment free. That appointment can then be given to someone else with a more urgent need. And, please, don’t call an ambulance or go to A&E unless you have a serious or life-threatening illness or injury.”
Some of the recommended steps to help services cope are:
Ensuring A&E visitors are not there because they couldn’t get an urgent GP appointment.
Trying to “deflect” non-life threatening ambulance calls to triage services rather than sending an NWAS crew.
Preventing falls in care homes as they account for 30 per cent of ambulance call outs.
Ensuring daily reviews of in-patients to avoid bed-blocking and keeping hospital weekend discharge rates comparable with weekdays.
The pressure placed on NHS services has been highlighted in recent months with hospital bosses on several occasions issuing urgent pleas for non-emergency patients to stay away from a stretched A&E department.
Advice was given this week for residents showing symptoms of the winter vomiting bug to stay away from the hospital to prevent it spreading.
This comes after it was revealed several wards at Wigan Infirmary have had to be closed in recent years because of outbreaks of norovirus.