By Sophie Coles
Winter pressures building

Early January 2024 has just seen a six-day junior doctor strike (from Wednesday 3 January – Tuesday 9 January), which heralds one of the toughest starts to the year ever for the NHS. The strikes are set to have a significant impact on almost all routine care, with consultants covering as the NHS prioritises urgent and emergency cases. This is of course on top of the usual winter pressure challenges.

While the winter of 2023/24 so far hasn’t seen the adverse weather conditions of previous years, the NHS is already under significant pressure from factors such as seasonal illnesses including covid and flu, and following the Christmas and New Year holidays, where many people have mixed socially, increasing the risk of spreading infections. In fact, the most recent data shows that people in hospital with flu has jumped to an average of 942 each day last week – almost six times the number compared to the week before.

Never too early to plan

Historically, winter planning is often left until autumn – or even the end of autumn – but in reality, it is never too early to start planning ahead. Ideally, work should commence over the summer, so that even without knowledge of the size of apportionment of funding from central government, the thinking has already been done and teams understand what is expected of them.

The benefits of foresight

Recognising that this advice doesn’t help you with the challenges you are currently facing, it is still worth bearing it in mind once we are out the other side of this winter period. But by reviewing the challenges you have faced over the season, while they are still fresh in your mind, you will be able to plan more effectively for next winter.

Extensive preparation

Fortunately, the NHS has prepared extensively and earlier than ever before for the busier winter pressures period, with hundreds more beds in place, more ambulances on the road and 24/7 system control centres rolled out across the country to manage additional pressure.

Collaboration is crucial

Here at C.Co, we believe it is essential that a ‘whole systems approach’ is adopted, ensuring that all parts of the system are actively involved in joint planning for winter pressures and working together to support individuals who draw on care. Collaboration is crucial in ensuring that there are resilient plans in place across health and care systems for winter. Delivery over winter will require all parts of the health and care system to work collectively to deliver the system operational plan.

C.Co understands the monumental system challenges that there are. We believe that all parts of the health and care system play a critical role over the winter period.  The C.Co team can help support you when it comes to your strategic, tactical and operational planning. Get in touch with us today so we can help you be as prepared as possible.