Extra social care support planned for ‘worst winter since the pandemic started’

Lancashire social care bosses are braced for the toughest winter since the onset of the pandemic.

A recent report to Lancashire County Council’s cabinet, outlining the authority’s plans for support services through to next spring, warns that the cold months to come are likely to be “significantly more challenging” even than those experienced during the Covid-afflicted winters of the past two years.

The ominous assessment notes that the virus itself is continuing to present challenges and pressures across both the health and social care sectors - and is this year expected to be exacerbated by a forecast resurgence in flu infections.

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The dual threat is set against a backdrop of a depleted social care workforce whose remaining staff are “fatigued” and have seen “no real reduction in pressure” since the pandemic struck.

Hundreds of hours of additional social care support is planned to be delivered across Lancashire this winter
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County Hall’s adult social care winter plan has set out £5.1m worth of measures designed to keep its services stable and provide extra capacity - both of which would also serve to ease the demand being experienced by an already stretched NHS.

The proposals that were approved by cabinet members include an additional 550 hours of support intended to speed up the discharge of patients from hospital or to help them avoid being admitted to the wards - or a residential home - in the first place.

The county’s long-established “Home First “ scheme sees patients sent back to their own homes for an assessment of any ongoing care needs they may have, rather than them remaining in hospital while that process is completed. The winter investment will allow for another 30 people per week to benefit from a quicker return home by providing up to five days of bridging support for them when they first do so - or crisis support for up to 72 hours to enable them to remain at home safely. The help can be anything from a one-off hour to continuous support for a specified period.

An extra three residents each week will be able to access round-the-clock crisis assistance for up to seven days in an attempt to keep them at home during a period when their complex needs demand urgent social care help - without which they might have to be admitted to a care home. A contingency buffer will be put in place to expand the volume of crisis support on offer, should there be a demand for it.

Meanwhile, up to 16 additional people per week could benefit from support to get them back on their feet after a hospital stay, if the provider who delivers the county council’s “reablement” service can deliver the proposed 500 extra hours per week.

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Cabinet member for adult social services Graham Gooch told the meeting at which the additional capacity was given the go-ahead that a pilot programme to be undertaken in two of Lancashire’s residential rehabilitation units would see “staff with whom they are already familiar” continuing to support patients once they had been discharged back to their own homes from those facilities.

Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali said it was sometimes difficulty in obtaining simple adaptations to their homes that meant people were trapped in hospital or care facilities. He said there was a need for a "mechanism through which we can get, relative quickly, stairlifts or other tools so that people are independent in their own homes, rather than going into a care home or more expensive setting when [a solution could be found] cheaper and in a better environment for them".

County Cllr Gooch said that a previous process that required lengthy approval "to get the simplest bit of kit" had been scrapped.

"We're [now] saying [if] it’s only a few quid, you can buy that."