Are you prepared for the oncoming winter pressures?

23 November 2021 By Michael Bowyer

​Every year after a summer of warmer weather and holiday plans, healthcare organisations are faced with the inevitable pressures brought on by the winter period. At this time of year, it’s important to prepare for increased demand by putting in place a staffing plan now so that you’re never left with gaps on your rota amidst a crisis.

The summer months are the perfect time for planning, arranging where best to spend extra funding and considering what additional resourcing you may need when the temperature starts to drop. We have put together a guide to help support your winter planning decisions and ensure you have taken the necessary steps to help you feel confident managing the delivery of care at your facility.

Pressures healthcare providers face during winter

It is no secret that the healthcare system faces the same pressures each year during the winter months, though this year there are other factors at play, such as the ongoing battle with Covid-19 and a continued backlog of appointments and procedures. There is a risk of another wave of cases before the vaccination programme is complete, especially as the colder weather puts those who are vulnerable at more risk. Additionally, the vaccination programme has now overrun and those most at risk and vaccinated first may require boosters or be at risk again come the winter months. Other obstacles that the healthcare need to prepare for are:

  • Increased demand

The healthcare system is affected by the rise in cases of infectious diseases such as seasonal flu and colds, as well as non-infections conditions that are exacerbated during the winter months such as asthma, arthritis, pneumonia, etc.

  • Lack of resources

Hospitals operate at max capacity during the winter months and anything that tips the balance can mean the NHS ends up overwhelmed and under resourced.

  • Staffing shortages

This may be reduced further due to short notice leave or sick leave or holiday. Other factors, such as winter weather disruptions like snow and flooding, and necessary childcare requirements for Christmas holidays can also affect staff and their ability to make it into work.

How to prepare for winter pressures

When there is pressure on the NHS and private facilities to provide continually high standards of patient care, preparing your facility for increased demand over the winter period is essential. Although this can sometimes feel easier said than done, there are a number of factors to consider getting on top of so that you can feel ready for whatever is thrown at you, such as:

  • Reviewing business continuity plans and ensuring adequate staffing

The delivery of effective care during the winter is dependent on the skills and availability of staff.

Ensure there are plans around temporary loss of staff due to illness or annual leave so that you can continue to deliver unwavering patient care. Having access to flexible and quickly deployed medical professionals is vital for filling rotas in the most cost-effective way, especially when experiencing increased staff absences due to illness or adverse weather conditions.

  • Planning for seasonal flu immunisations

Plan additional resources for flu vaccinations as winter is a challenging time for respiratory illness. Encourage patients to get their flu jab in readiness for winter by delivering engagement campaigns targeting staff and eligible members of the public.

  • Preventing the spread of infection

Providers should use additional funding available to implement infection prevention and control measures, including making sure you have plenty of PPE for your team members over the colder months. It is also important you ensure both symptomatic team members and patients are able to access testing quickly and efficiently and encourage the use of your online services.

  • Promoting patient wellbeing

Winter can be a challenging time for everyone both mentally and physical, so try to encourage patients to maintain their health and wellbeing and offer support where necessary. Try to maintain regular communication with patients via SMS or email, reminding them of their appointments and to seek advice from a pharmacist at the first sign of illness, rather than allowing problems to escalate.

How to access the healthcare professionals you need quickly:

Having access to flexible and quickly deployed skill mixes is vital for filling rotas in the most cost-effective way, especially when there is so much pressure on the NHS and private facilities to provide exceptional patient care throughout the winter months. Here at Medical Staffing, we’ve made it our mission to find the best ways to provide healthcare talent based on the individual – and often changing – needs of an organisation.

We partner with your facility, getting to know your level of service, processes and systems. This allows us to provide or suggest a suite of clinical workforce solutions. We’re capable of mobilising a large multidisciplinary team at scale and short notice to support not only your vaccination programmes but also support the day-to-day running of your facility or practice, out of hours, or in block bookings.

If you would like to discuss staffing issues, find flexible resourcing solutions that suit the individual needs of your organisation, or just get have some questions answered about how to capitalise on funding in your healthcare organisation so that you feel well prepared for the winter, we would be happy to speak with you.

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