NHSE&I have sent a letter out to their higher-ups announcing its plans to deal with increased winter demand

winter doctor

In a letter to executives and directors, Pauline Phillip, National Director for Emergency and Elective Care at NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), has outlined the plans in place for maintaining flow through NHS systems and managing service demand during the winter months.

In the letter, Ms Phillip drew particular attention to the updated planning guidance for the second half of the year, published on 30 September 2021, which details the NHSE&I’s priorities and operational planning guidance for October 2021⁠ to March 2022 and focuses on improving the care provided by urgent and emergency care services.

The letter also announces that the NHS plans to enact its Winter Operating Model from 1 November 2021 to 29 April 2022 as usual.

An understandable focus of Ms Phillip’s letter was the unpredictability of COVID-19 and related workforce issues. In her words: ‘We need to plan to manage capacity to respond to demand that may be fuelled by further waves of COVID-19 and/or severe outbreaks of respiratory and other illness.

’Resilience over this difficult winter can only be achieved through taking a system-led approach and I would ask that plans are created and delivered in a collaborative manner, leveraging the strengths of each individual integrated care system (ICS) as well as our partners across the health and social care system.’

This news comes at a time of long-term changes to ICSs which are intended to streamline the role of community pharmacies in wider healthcare, as last week NHSE&I announced funding for ICS-based community pharmacy integration leads across the country. The funding, coming from the Pharmacy Integration Fund, will fund the leads for 2 years, beginning in 2022, and will also be used to:

  • support GPs in implementing the GP Community Pharmacist Consultation Service
  • create new Regional Senior Pharmacy Integration roles that sit under the Regional Chief Pharmacists
  • support NHS hospitals in implementing referrals to community pharmacy services.

Responding to this announcement, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiation Committee (PSNC)’s Director of NHS Services, Alastair Buxton, said: ‘Better integration of community pharmacy and its services within the wider health and care system is a key aim of PSNC… This integration requires relationships to be developed or enhanced with colleagues in primary care networks, at place level, and within the ICS; anything that can help facilitate this, such as NHSE&I’s planned investment in ICS integration leads, is to be welcomed.’

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