The Southern Trust is bracing itself for a difficult winter with the chief executive admitting there will be “major challenges” ahead.
Shane Devlin, Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust says local health and social care services will face some major challenges this winter.
The UK-Wide shortage of medical and nursing staff combined with the growing demand for hospital beds is putting extra strain on existing services, despite on-going efforts to increase staff numbers over the next four months.
The Trust recently recruited 238 extra staff following a new campaign to increase the number of domiciliary care workers.
“The Southern Trust has one of the fastest growing populations in Northern Ireland and the number of people attending our emergency departments and Minor Injuries Unit has increased by 20% in the last five years,” said Mr Devlin.
He added: “This Trust and others continue to face serious pressures particularly during winter when there are more ill patients who need admitted to hospital.
“The Trust is planning ahead to help ease pressure on services this winter – working to open extra beds; ensuring our patient journey through the hospital is as efficient as possible and managing planned surgery to limit the number of last minute cancellations.
“We have also done a lot of work in recent years to develop alternatives to hospital admission as there is a lot of evidence that people recover faster in familiar surroundings – the new Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit and Direct Assessment Unit, the Older Person Assessment Unit and Acute Care at Home are just some examples of this work.”
Mr Devlin also appealed for the public’s help in making services work better this winter: “I am asking people to work with us this winter by not coming to the Emergency Department unless it is an emergency and to take friends/ relatives home from hospital as soon as possible after discharge.
“Also please don’t come to any of our hospitals/facilities if you (or anybody else in your house) have cold/flu, vomiting, diarrhoea and infections as this can spread infections among vulnerable patients and the staff caring for them. There’s plenty of advice on www.nidirect.gov.uk.”
Mr Devlin concluded: “We all need to take care of our own health this winter – simple steps like getting the flu jab and taking exercise can make a big difference.”