Shropshire NHS opens 'winter war room' to help manage demand on health services

Dozens of NHS "traffic control centres" including one in Shropshire have gone live in a bid to manage the intense pressure on the health service.

Ambulance response times will be taken into consideration in the move
Ambulance response times will be taken into consideration in the move

42 control centres across England will use data such as A&E performance, waiting times, staff levels, ambulance response times and bed occupancy with the aim of managing demand.

The data will be used by staff who will divert ambulances away from full hospitals to ones with more space.

One such centre, also dubbed a "winter war room", has been implemented by NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.

Based at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, it will run seven days a week, fully manned during daytime hours with on-call arrangements overnight.

Sam Tilley, director of urgent and emergency care and emergency planning for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: "For the last couple of years, since the Covid pandemic, we have been experiencing pressures on services across the whole health and social care system.

"These pressures can strike different parts of the system at different times or in tandem. This could be demand for ambulances, increases in people walking into A&E, demand for care home beds, or for primary care appointments.

"This new control centre is a positive step forward and will allow staff to see 'real-time' data from across health and social care enabling us to see where ambulance queues are building up, waiting times are increasing, bed occupancy is challenged for instance, and to work together across the system in a joined-up way to address these issues quickly."

NHS bosses have spoken of additional plans to help relieve pressures on the service this winter, including to expand fall response services and provide local "respiratory infections hubs".

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: "With recent data hitting home the significant pressure staff are facing – with 10 times the flu cases in hospital than we saw going into winter last year and thousands of beds taken up by patients medically fit for discharge – it has never been more important for the NHS to introduce these important and innovative planning measures ahead of what is likely to be one of our most challenging winters yet.

"The public can play its part by using NHS services in the usual way - dialling 999 in an emergency and using 111 online for other health conditions, and vaccines remain an important protection against serious illness so please come forward if you're eligible."

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