What will £14.8m cash boost for health services mean to Wigan Infirmary?

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Health and social care services in the borough have been given a £14.8m boost. Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, speaks about the difference it will make for Wigan Infirmary.

Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department has been under significant pressure recently.

We have done some initiatives over the last few years which have been successful but then the numbers increase and we have to keep going

Andrew Foster

For several months there have been repeated appeals for people to stay away unless they are seriously ill or in a life-threatening condition.

But it is hoped that pressure could be eased thanks to £14.8m from the Greater Manchester Health And Social Care Partnership Transformation Fund.

It will be used to reduce demand on the hospital, particularly on A&E, mainly by bringing services closer to people’s homes and keeping them out of hospital wards.

Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said: “Especially in winter, but all year round, we get terribly, terribly crowded. We get excess numbers of people coming to our accident and emergency department and we run short of hospital beds, which mean people have a lengthy wait to be seen in A&E. If we want to admit them, there’s often a wait for a bed.

“If we can avoid those people coming in the first place, it will ease the situation for everybody.”

A successful funding application was submitted in October to the £450m Transformation Fund and sees all the local health bodies and Wigan Council joining forces for projects aimed at changing health and social care services.

Some of the funding will be used in A&E to keep the ambulatory assessment area open for another 12 months.

It was set up two years ago to see patients referred by their GP for tests or a review of their medication, for example, and has been expanded several times.

But it will then be slimmed down or even closed if the initiatives are successful in keeping people away from the hospital.

Mr Foster said: “If they are successful in diverting large numbers of people away from hospital, we won’t need it.”

For now, the ambulatory assessment area will remain open while work is carried out to help people in their homes.

The new integrated community services (ICS) will receive a share of the money so it can be rolled out from Hindley to the rest of the borough.

District nurses, health visitors, social workers and other specialist staff will work together to co-ordinate care outside the hospital, planned around the patients’ needs.

There will be several “hubs” around the borough, probably based around GP practices, and they will draw up care plans for patients.

Other projects will see hospital consultants giving advice to members of the ICS team, seven hubs providing healthcare for children, GPs working better together and the continuation of the Heart Of Wigan heart health initiative,

Mr Foster said: “The whole plan is to take people away from hospital and we agree with that.”

The projects are the latest in a series aimed at easing the pressure on the hospital.

It is hoped that treating people in the community will help to stem the problem of more and more people needing care at the infirmary.

Mr Foster said: “People come into hospital like a rising tide. The population of Wigan is growing, the proportion of Wigan that’s older is increasing, so there’s an underlying constant demand. We have to produce alternatives all the time simply to stand still.

“We have done some initiatives over the last few years which have been successful but then the numbers increase and we have to keep going.”

Mr Foster believes that as well as easing the pressure on the hospital, staying at home will be a benefit to some patients.

He said: “Particularly frail older people who have a fall or have a minor infection or need rehydration, they are actually much better off being treated for those things in their own home.

“If they come into hospital, every day they are in a bed they lose muscle mass and are at risk of infection from other patients.

“There’s very little benefit, even for people with a new minor condition, because the risks of going to hospital are greater than staying at home.”

However, he highlighted that some people would, of course, still need to be treated in hospital.

The funding, which needs to be rubber-stamped, runs to March next year and further applications to the Transformation Fund will be made.