'Winter war rooms' the latest weapon in the NHS fight to beat winter pressures - but is it enough?

'Winter war rooms' the latest weapon in the NHS fight to beat winter pressures - but is it enough?
'Winter war rooms' the latest weapon in the NHS fight to beat winter pressures - but is it enough?

Arabnews24.ca:Thursday 1 December 2022 03:21 PM: Cases of flu, RSV (a respiratory virus) and now norovirus are rising - all common winter bugs.

The NHS has not really experienced any pressure from these for the past two years because of the pandemic. We were not moving and mixing, so these viruses did not get a chance to spread as they normally do.

Flu-related hospital admissions and intensive care admissions have increased in the past week. The highest rates of admission are being seen in children under the age of five and adults aged 85 and over.

So, in a bad winter this would start to put pressure on the NHS - the traditional 'winter pressure' we are familiar with. But what we know now is the NHS experiences this pressure all year round. The clear seasonal lines have been wiped out.

Add to this mix, COVID. It is true that, at a national level, COVID-19 activity has decreased in most settings, but it has not gone away completely.

In care homes, COVID-driven respiratory infections have increased, and the COVID-19 hospital admission rate for the past recorded week saw a small increase from the previous one.

Ambulance responses times are lengthening: The NHS points to the number of patients who are still in hospital but should not be. It's no fault of theirs, as there is no social care provision for them, but that means ambulances cannot offload patients needing beds because hospital capacity is stretched.

More on Nhs

Have you had a long ambulance wait? Share your story.

One solution put forward by the government is its "winter war room" plan.

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These are control centres that monitor real-time data and manage resources, like ambulances, away from bottlenecks to where space is available.

They work with acute, community and mental health trusts and try and join up the health and care system in one region to work smoothly as a single unit.

Read more:
Number of patients in hospital with flu jumps 40% in a week
Up to 100,000 nurses to walk out in December

I was in one today, and I asked the obvious question: "Many people would naturally think this was already happening?

"Why has it taken so long?" The answer I received is: "Technology has made it possible and legislation has allowed us to do it."

Critical issue

A lot of faith is being placed in new NHS technology right now. There are virtual wards where patients are at home but monitored closely via a smartphone app, self monitoring health apps, advanced robotic surgery etc.

This is great and it is having an impact. But it does not solve the most critical issue facing the NHS right now: the workforce crisis.

No amount of technology can replace the nurses and specialists that are so desperately needed.

Once that is addressed and these health workers are enabled with the latest healthcare innovations, only then will real progress be made.

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