North-east health staff had their most successful ever winter – and are already planning for the same again this year.
New figures show there was a big reduction in the number of hospital patients in the region whose discharge was delayed last winter compared with the previous one.
That meant more beds were available and allowed for a large increase in elective surgery.
The boost in performance has been put down to a decrease in norovirus and a fall in adverse weather – as there was no repeat of the Beast from the East snowstorm that battered the region in February 2018.
Now the priority is to learn any lessons from last winter amid concerns about bed availability.
“In summary, winter 2018-19 was less challenging in regards to demand pressures than the previous winter,” said a new report, to be presented to councillors at an audit committee meeting today.
It added: “There was recognised good working between various partners in Aberdeen.
“There remain concerns in regard to the available bed capacity (both medical and social care) going into winter 2019-20.
“It is also recognised there requires to be continued focus and effort to prepare for winter.”
The report analyses performance of medical and social care services in Aberdeen and the north-east between the start of last November and the end of this March, compared with the same period in 2017-18.
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NHS figures show 14,221 bed days were lost in the north-east in winter 2018-19 compared with 16,162 in winter 2017-18 – a 13% fall.
The number of bed days occupied at north-east hospitals in winter 2018-19 was 5,504, compared with 7,504 the previous winter – a 26% fall.
The report said: “Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership was felt to have been quite successful in managing the ‘surge’ of cases requiring support to be discharged from hospital over winter 2018-19.
“The partnership was able to deliver its lowest ever winter bed days lost to delayed discharge.
“Though it should be noted that winter 2018-19 did not have the same demand pressures as 2017-18.”
Overall, there was a “small increase” of 1.3% in emergency admissions.
However, the report said NHS Grampian was able to “significantly” increase the number of elective admissions – people coming into hospital for procedures – by 13.8%.
It added: “The increase in elective activity reflected the national directive to maximise elective activity over winter 2018-19.”
Explaining the improvement, the report said: “For the 2018-19 season there was a significant decrease in overall norovirus activity across all sectors within NHS Grampian.
“There were no significant national weather conditions reported that had a significant impact on health and social care services.”
One of the biggest challenges for last winter, said the report, was bed capacity.
It said: “Problems were noted with the availability of care-at-home provision in December 2018 and January 2019 – potentially linked, at least in part, to the need to urgently reprovision all care packages from a social care provider (Allied Care).
“This did result in additional patients remaining in hospital awaiting social care provision.
“It was also noted that due to the temporary closure of two wards (between Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Woodend Hospital) relating to older people’s medicine and rehabilitation, bed closures at Royal Cornhill Hospital, and the ongoing suspension and then closure of a local Aberdeen care home (Banks o’ Dee Care Home) – bed capacity was felt to be very ‘tight’ this past winter.”
The report said plans for this winter began in May 2018 “to ensure comprehensive winter plan will be in place for the City Partnership, ready for winter 2019-20”.