Additional social care services are being provided over the festive period to help hospital patients return home sooner.
Durham County Council, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) and their partners have joined forces to provide services during out of hours periods and over Christmas and New Year.
It is hoped that the extra provision will minimise any disruption for patients, enabling them to leave hospital as soon as possible after they are ready to be discharged.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adults, wellbeing and health, said: “During the winter months, the pressures on our health and social care services increase significantly but particularly so during the Christmas and New Year period when services are under additional pressure.
“If people are delayed in leaving hospital because the services they require in order to return home are not in place then it also has an impact on waiting times for other patients.
“That’s why we’re working with our partners to try and ensure that people who are able to leave hospital during this time are able to do so and that any care or support services they need are ready for them when they get home.”
The additional services are being funded with Government cash which has been allocated to local authorities to enable them to support the NHS in avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and prevent delayed discharges during the winter months.
Until Wednesday, 2 January, social work teams along with reablement, intermediate care, domiciliary care and home from hospital services will be available out of hours and over the Bank Holidays to make arrangements for new patients.
In addition, the council and CDDFT are working to ensure additional intermediate care beds are available for patients who are able to be discharged from hospital but are not yet able to return home.
At the beginning of November, the council also introduced a brokerage service to help people who need to move into long-term accommodation when they leave hospital find an appropriate nursing or care home. This service will also be available across the two-week holiday period.
Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing at CDDFT, said: “This year we expect to see an increased demand on services over the festive period so we have planned well in advance, working with health and social care partners, to put support in place for our patients and local communities.
“Within our hospitals we’ve been working to improve our discharge processes as part of our #NextStepHome campaign so that we can help make sure patients who are medically well enough leave hospital as soon as possible and this also helps us manage our beds for the expected increase on demand.
“The joined-up work we are doing with partners across community services and social care is supporting this by ensuring that those patients who do need hospital care can return home or to their usual place of residence when well enough with the support they may need. It’s also helping some patients to remain out of hospital and receive care closer to home.
“We have amazing health and social care professionals working across County Durham and Darlington who we know will go the extra mile in providing care this festive season.
“We would ask our local communities to help us help them by choosing services wisely and working with us to provide safe, high quality services this Christmas and New Year.”