It is certainly fair to say that the winter of 2021/22 will go down in history as one of the most difficult faced by health and care staff across BSW.
The Covid crisis, the new Omicron variant, staff having to isolate and take time off work coupled with the usual winter related pressures on hospital beds and other health services all combined to create a perfect storm.
But it is a storm that all those working in BSW have risen to cope with admirably.
Everyone working for our partner organisations across BSW has played an important role and teamwork and a joined-up approach to tackling some of the big problems this winter has created has enabled the BSW Partnership to face the challenges head on.
One of the biggest problems has been the high demand for hospital beds, and this winter our partner organisations worked together to come up with solutions.
The Royal United Hospitals Bath, HCRG Care Group (formerly Virgin Care), Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Wiltshire Health and Care and other partners including the third sector worked together to set up a new community ward at St Martins Hospital and a temporary care hotel. Temporary beds have also been made available at the rehabilitation hospital in South Newton near Salisbury and in care homes across BSW,
The schemes were set up over a few weeks with a great deal of background work and almost instantly provided much needed bed capacity to help local services.
Cara Charles Barks, Chief Executive of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Trust said:
“We really don’t want patients who are well enough to leave hospital to stay with us for any longer than they need to.
Opening the new ward and the care hotel are positive steps to support people’s ongoing recovery in a more appropriate environment and ensure hospital beds are there for people with acute medical needs.”
The BSW Partnership also addressed demand for hospital beds though Bath and North East Somerset’s Community Wellbeing Hub, offering practical support to patients well enough to leave hospital and continue their recovery at home.
The Hub, which is a collaboration between Bath and North East Somerset Council, HCRG Care Group (formerly Virgin Care) and local third sector organisations, secured £16,000 of funding to provide HELP packs to patients discharged from hospital to ease their transition back home.
The packs provide three meals for breakfast, lunch and an evening meal for three days, a welfare telephone call within 24 hours and a follow up call one week later and onward referrals to other services and support – with welfare visits in certain circumstances.
Councillor Alison Born, Cabinet Member for Adults and Council Housing, said: “Our hospitals always come under enormous strain during the peak winter months, but the pressure on beds right now is exceptional due to Covid.
“Often people are well enough to leave hospital and continue their recovery at home but are unable to do so because they don’t have support. The Community Wellbeing Hub can play its part to help fill this void.”
What’s it like to work on our new facilities during this busy time?
Niki Hartley is Senior Sister on the new Ward 4 at St Martins Hospital. She told us how things have been since the ward opened.
How did the opportunity to work on Ward 4 come about?
I was asked if I would kindly represent the RUH and go and help manage Ward 4 St Martins. I have been a ward manager at the RUH for 3 years, so was delighted to be able to transfer my skills from the acute setting to work in partnership with the acute and community teams to help with the winter pressures.
Have you worked in other roles at the RUH and in health and care more generally?
I have worked in health care since I was 19 years old. I started off in medical records at the RUH. I moved to Manchester to study at their school of nursing. I have been a ward manager for 3 years, prior to that I was an infection prevention and control nurse. I have also worked a large part of my career within Avon and Wiltshire Mental health partnership in various roles which include community alcohol detoxification nurse in Bristol.
Has it been important that there has been a great team working together to get Ward 4 up and running so quickly?
A great amount of team work has gone into setting up and opening ward 4. The turn around time was incredibly quick. It’s been great to see so many teams, such as housekeeping and nursing agencies, RUH, HCRG and BSW CCG working together so hard to make this work.
What are your hopes for the coming months and for Ward 4?
I think the success for patient experience has already become apparent. In times of winter pressure we must ensure we don’t lose sight of the patient’s experience. So wards like ward 4 are essential and hopefully become part of the new norm during Winter. It would be lovely to see wards like these open in October through to March to help the acute trusts with the winter pressures.