Health and social care chiefs across Fife are planning for the worst this winter after conceding “multiple threats” could put an unprecedented demand on services.
Members of Fife’s Integrated Joint Board (IJB) have approved NHS Fife and Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s joint winter plan, as senior managers say the 2020/21 winter period will be like no other.
A report to board members confirmed there are “multiple threats beyond those seen in previous years”, citing seasonal flu, Covid-19, possible severe weather, norovirus and Brexit as major risks to keeping things running smoothly.
Preparing for the coronavirus vaccination programme will prove an extra strain.
Nicky Connor, Fife’s director of health and social care, said: “The priority is to ensure that the needs of vulnerable and unwell people are met in a timely and effective manner despite increases in demand.
“Our workforce are key to the successful delivery of the winter plan.
“Resilience, coping with demand, severe weather, norovirus, Covid planning and flu plans are all factors that have been considered.
“The plan is supported by a discharge model, performance measures, a risk matrix and an escalation process.
“Learning from last winter has also been considered in terms of performance, what went well, what went less well and has helped to identify the 2019/20 planning priorities for the acute services division and the health and social care partnership.”
Various scenarios have been drawn up, including an “extreme pressure” situation which would be activated if hospital occupancy rises above 100%, no critical care provision is available and more than 10 patients are awaiting accident and emergency admission.
That would see all acute beds made available for patients, delayed discharge patients moved to “other locations” and in the event of surgery cancellations, all available theatre staff redirected to support inpatient activity.
Up to 35 external nursing home placements would be commissioned, while ward 8a at Dunfermline’s Queen Margaret Hospital could be increased by five beds and 16 beds could be made available at Cameron Hospital in Windygates, depending on medical cover and staffing plans.
Figures presented to the IJB suggest the total cost of implementing measures to tackle any “worst case scenario” would be just under £3 million and would add to the Health and Social Care Partnership’s £6.8 million estimated overspend this year.