In Crawley, Horsham, Haywards Heath and surrounding areas 40 new community staff (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses and support workers) have been recruited in preparation for winter.
They will be working alongside additional social workers from West Sussex Social Services.
These staff, who are in post now until March, will provide additional community and rehabilitation support, allowing patients to be discharged from hospital so they can be cared for at home.
Sussex Community NHS trust states this will be better for patients and will free hospital beds for other patients who have acute needs over the winter period.
“Our team at the Crawley Urgent Treatment Centre, who treat on average 1,000 patients every week, also offer patients an alternative to A&E,” says Sue Aston, clinical services manager.
“When patients arrive at the centre they are triaged immediately and urgent cases are prioritised. We offer a unique and safe alternative to A&E and our individual consulting rooms offer privacy and dignity in smaller environments.”
In addition, Horsham Minor Injuries Unit is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and is a walk-in service for patients with minor injuries.
The Unit offers an alternative to A&E, as Judith Dronfield, clinical lead at the Unit, explains: “Our specialist team of nurses, who all have a background in A&E, access, diagnose, investigate and treat a wide range of minor injuries.
“We currently see approximately 200 patients every week, the majority of whom do not need planned follow-up treatment, so avoiding hospital admission.”
Jane Mules, deputy director of operations, adult services, Sussex Community NHS Trust, said: “The cold weather brings with it a host of medical issues, such as fractures, chest infections and viruses that can affect our most vulnerable and elderly patients. Our aim is to care for our patients at home to prevent inappropriate hospital admissions. The scaling up of our services will help us reach and treat more patients in need.
“Without this extra support many patients would visit A&E. Instead GPs can refer their patients to our community health services and our teams also visit patients in care and nursing homes.”