Patients are set to benefit from extra GP appointments and a children’s observation ward as £2.7m is invested in extra health services this winter.
Demand for healthcare usually soars in winter, with GP practices and hospitals coming under extra pressure.
Dr Tim Dalton, a GP and chairman of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, has revealed how the cash will be used to help cope with demand.
He said: “We have obviously got a very busy health and care system which runs 365 days a year and it’s got some really hard-working doctors, nurses, therapists, clinical and admin staff in that. Winter funding is to help a little bit with that.”
Steps are being taken to ensure patients get the right help, with additional GP appointments commissioned.
The community mental health team also has increased capacity for the winter.
There are 20 step-up beds, for people who do not need hospital care but are not ready to go home.
Work is being done with the ambulance service to provide care away from hospitals.
Dr Dalton said: “Historically if an ambulance is called, there was little choice but to go to hospital.
“Now, there is a community response team built around the ambulance where if the paramedics think it’s a poorly person but A&E isn’t the best option, there is a community response team who can go to help. Rather than go to hospital, they can help them in their home and get better care.”
For ambulances going to A&E, a handover team will speed up the process of patients being passed to medical staff.
Children can be put in a 17-bed observation ward if they need to be seen for longer, but not necessarily admitted.
Extra staff will be based in A&E, so patients are seen quickly, and there will be additional medical beds.
Police officers will support staff at key times, such as New Year’s Eve, to ensure everything runs smoothly when patients may have been drinking more than usual.
Once patients have been treated in hospital, a third sector provider can transport patients to their homes, rather than the ambulance service, who may be on 999 calls.
A home finder scheme has been launched to support patients needing a place in a care home and their families.
Work is also being done with homeless patients, to ensure they have support to recover properly when they leave hospital.
Dr Dalton hopes these projects will all help to make a difference as the demand for NHS care increases over the winter.
Some schemes are already in place, with others set to start soon. While most will end in the spring, the successful initiatives could become permanent.
But he urged Wiganers to seek help in the right place to ease the demand on A&E.
He said: “Self-care really has to be important. For many physically and mentally healthy people, simply thinking in advance what you will do if you become poorly can be really helpful.”
As well as stocking up on medicines, he reminded people that help is available from NHS111, pharmacies, walk-in centres in Leigh, St Helens and Skelmersdale, GP practices and other sources.