The HSE Winter Plan was launched on Thursday 14 November. The aim of the Winter Plan is to ensure that service providers are prepared for the additional external pressures associated with the winter period, including the prolonged holiday period, severe winter weather, seasonal influenza, and the spread of norovirus and other healthcare associated infections. The Plan is supported by an additional €26m in winter funding nationally. This winter funding will support access to the Fair Deal scheme and will provide additional home support and transitional care to facilitate timely hospital discharge and help reduce congestion in EDs over the winter period.
Nine Winter Action Teams, each aligned to a Community Healthcare Organisation and associated acute hospitals and Hospital Groups, have prepared Integrated Winter Plans. These plans focus on demand management and reduction, staffing availability, timely access to the most appropriate care pathway for patients, and appropriate timely discharge from acute hospitals. Each Action Team has set out a range of initiatives it will undertake within its area to implement the Plan.
The funding which has been allocated to the WATs will support initiatives at local level including:
- Additional medical, nursing, therapies support, pharmacy and lab staff to improve patient experience time, improve senior clinical decision making, reduce length of stay, and facilitate weekend discharges;
- Additional Aids and Appliances to facilitate timely discharge;
- Additional home support hours to facilitate early hospital to community transfers;
- Communications to facilitate hospital avoidance and public health awareness;
- Implementing Frail Intervention Therapy Teams for admission avoidance and reduced admissions of patients over - 75;
- Additional Flu testing kits to improve PET.
In addition to the immediate measures being undertaken in the Winter Plan the Government through the Sláintecare Strategy is addressing the issues of access to healthcare. The Sláintecare Action Plan for 2019 has a specific workstream on access and waiting lists. The Government is also increasing investment in health infrastructure and capacity in the system in line with Project Ireland 2040.
I am confident that together with the more immediate measures being undertaken under the Winter Plan and the strategic approach undertaken by the Government under Sláintecare that progress will be made in addressing the difficulties in the emergency departments.