Unfortunately, this is not only a phrase used in the TV series Game of Thrones, it is an often misused call to arms for the NHS as the dark nights start to draw in. However, this year whilst we don’t expect to have to deal with White Walkers and Wildlings in the coming months, we do have all the other ingredients for our own perfect storm. It is therefore more important than ever that we call on all health assets and companies at our disposal, both public and private, to once again “Save Our NHS”.

The NHS stepped forward during the first wave of COVID with a clear focus that ensured they could serve the nation’s pandemic needs with a potential explosion of critically ill patients needing hospital care. This single-minded focus achieved change at an unprecedented speed for the NHS but was delivered at a cost. That cost was all the things that were stopped or not done; resulting in spiralling waiting lists, untreated cancers, routine management now becoming crisis response and the British public stoically not wanting to become a burden to the NHS. Now is the time we may have to pay that cost at the same time as the increasingly likely second wave coinciding with Flu and other traditional winter pressures.

Hospital executives are having to juggle elective restart with reduced capacity due to COVID restrictions, alongside increasing flow into the hospital. At the same time the wider health economy is trying to fit back into a new normal with staffing returning to pre COVID roles against a backdrop of increased complexity due to decreased planned management over the spring and summer. However, what is clear is we can’t return to the crisis response of Wave One which focused solely on keeping hospitals and more particularly ITU capacity, safe. If we are going to behave differently the second time what might that look like?

I would argue that this time we need a more holistic approach than earlier in the year. We have effectively used video conference technology for outpatients and primary care but what other technology should we be using. The private hospital bed base was commissioned to support mostly cancer but what else could have been done? This time around we should be using all the available support. I often hear that a system is short of beds, when in reality each system has more than enough beds for their population. It just happens that the majority of those beds are in people’s homes.

Which brings me to the role HomeLink Healthcare, and other similar providers, can play as the second wave and winter wraps around us. As experts in providing the care needed between acute and community and with a readily available workforce, HomeLink Healthcare are the solution to a growing problem. Working with NHS partners via the use of virtual wards and early supported discharge into patients own homes, services provided by HomeLink Healthcare are essential for of successful delivery of our Health and Social Care systems this winter.

Winter is coming, and if we are going to meet the needs of patients and manage hospital bed capacity the new normal means caring for more people in their own homes. The NHS is going to need help in doing that and it’s what HomeLink Healthcare are experts in, we should be acting now not waiting until winter has arrived.

Jon Green – Advisory Consultant, HomeLink Healthcare

To find out how HomeLink Healthcare can help in your area, call 0203 137 5370 or email info@homelinkhealthcare.co.uk

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