Winter is beginning to make its presence felt, say bosses at two health trusts which treat patients from Hartlepool.
Experts and councillors gathered this week to hear how North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust was faring on the back of an improved festive period at hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton.
Barbara Bright, chief of staff at the trust, said the “winter had hit” – albeit a bit later than last year.
Ms Bright said: “We had bit a reprieve at the beginning of January, but we’re certainly well into the winter surge now.”
She added: “We are seeing an increase in flu cases coming through so there is an expectation that will rise with pressures in the coming weeks.”
This rise in demand was also aired at the latest Hartlepool and Stockton CCG (HaST CCG) meeting in Darlington.
Lisa Tempest, from the CCG, said winter was “particularly difficult last year” over Christmas and the New Year and performance in the North East had been “much improved”.
But she added pressure was starting to rise and A&E attendance was increasing – particularly among elderly patients.
Leaders at the CCG are drawing up long-term plans to try and care for the elderly away from hospitals – working with councils and different bodies.
It comes as amid pressure on the social care sector in Teesside and a number of care home closures the past 12 months.
Dr Neil O’Brien, chief clinical officer at the CCG, stressed care closer to home was the ultimate aim.
He said: “It’s much more difficult if there are not enough care home beds because ultimately, if patients need a high level of support, it’s very difficult to provide it in their own homes.
“We want to provide them with care as close to home as possible – if the care home sector is very fragile, that makes it a bit more difficult.
“It’s integral to get people moving through hospitals – keeping people in hospital is bad for your health.
“There is lots of evidence to show the sooner you can get people out of hospital, the healthier they are so we need a good care home sector.”
The CCG is carrying out a “deep dive” study to cut unnecessary A&E attendances by elderly people.
Ms Bright told the council panel the trust was putting in a national bid for funding via “helpforce”, an NHS volunteer scheme.
She said the body was trying to use “Home Safer Sooner” – a free scheme which helps older people return home from hospital and get back on their feet – to reduce re-admissions to hospital by older people.
Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service