Health chiefs in the north-east have launched a major blitz on winter illnesses.
NHS Grampian has spent an extra £1.2 million on coping with increased demand due to colder weather in winter – on top of £1m the board spent a year ago.
Medical bosses at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin have put in place a “winter surge” system aimed at keeping hospital beds free.
Extra staff have been brought in and can be deployed to community hospitals should issues arise.
A total of 51.6% of north-east health staff had flu jabs in autumn to minimise their chance of going off on sick leave.
At ARI, doctors have brought in 36 extra beds for patients and four extra stroke beds.
NHS Grampian has also made it possible for GP practices to put more resources into treating people in surgeries to reduce hospital admissions.
There is extra capacity for the practices to see more patients the same day when they fall ill to avoid them going to A&E unnecessarily.
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At the heart of the system is a “huddle” – a daily talk between professionals from various organisations to ensure everyone is playing their part.
One problem in the past has been patients recovering from illness but not being able to leave hospital because there is nowhere suitable for them to stay.
The huddle is attended by staff from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire health and social care partnerships, who can solve such problems, freeing up beds.
That in turn gives staff in some hospital departments more chance of treating patients within four hours of their arrival at A&E.
Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership has created an extra 20 spaces in its sheltered housing complex so elderly people can be discharged more easily.
A partnership spokesman said: “Grampian’s daily cross-system huddle ensures safe, effective discharge and admission.
“The huddle has been expanded to include Scottish Ambulance Service and mental health practitioners. This has further enhanced the effectiveness of safe discharge and admission.”
Latest figures show 2,045 patients arrived at NHS Grampian hospitals in the week beginning December 9.
Of those, 87.4% were seen within four hours – the third-best performance of 11 health boards on the Scottish mainland.
A spokesman for the health board said: “NHS Grampian develops a winter (surge) plan each year with the aim of minimising the impact of potential increases in activity during the winter period.
“The plan consolidates the individual plans of the health and social care partnerships in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, and the NHS Grampian acute sector.”
He added: “Winter is a busy time for all health services and this winter NHS Grampian is making sure everyone knows who to turn to if they are ill or injured.
“Going directly to the person with the most appropriate skills is important and can help you to a speedier recovery. It also can help to avoid an unnecessary trip to the A&E.”
To find out more about the range of services available and how to access them, visit know-who-to-turn-to.com