HEALTH and social care services across East Lancashire have received a seasonal boost, in the form of a package of special winter measures to deal with increased demand for treatment.

The plans, announced by local Clinical Commissioning Groups, include the £1.4million of funding announced earlier this year by the Department of Health.

The measures aim to reduce inappropriate admissions to hospital and improve access to the right care at the right time.

Already, additional health and social care staff are working to support seven-day working, meaning that people who are well enough can be discharged from hospital earlier, including over weekends and Bank Holidays, with the right support to go home or into residential or nursing care.

There have also been additional GP appointments, both face-to-face and over the telephone, which lead to fewer patients at A&E or Urgent Care Centres.

Other measures include an ambulatory care service at Royal Blackburn Hospital, which will enable people to receive treatment as a day patient, avoiding the need for unnecessary admissions and ensuring that they return home as soon as possible.

John Dean, associate medical director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Many patients attending hospital in an urgent or emergency situation require an opinion and investigation from a specialist physician that day or the following day.

“Previously, for this to be done quickly, patients were admitted to hospital. The ambulatory care service means we can now offer the same assessment without admission to hospital, with investigations, results and a management plan by a consultant immediately, or as quickly as necessary. About a quarter of patients previously admitted to hospital can be safely cared for in this way.”

Dr Chris Clayton, chief clinical officer at Blackburn with Darwen CCG, stressed that by everyone working together, the health and social care challenges of the winter can be addressed.

He said: “We all need to play our parts in making sure that people across the area stay safe and well over winter.

“We have been planning jointly for a long time and these additional projects will boost our efforts to deal with the challenges we know will arise.”

These measures have been introduced alongside the ‘Think!’ campaign, which urges people to visit their local pharmacy for advice and over-the-counter remedies for minor illnesses such as coughs and colds and to make sure that GP appointments are available for those who most need them.