Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

Extremely challenging winter ahead for health and social care

AN EXTREMELY difficult and challenging winter lies ahead for health and social care within Dumfries and Galloway.

That is the warning from Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership, anticipating that current massive pressures will only continue to grow as we move into colder months.

Chief Officer Julie White said: “As we enter the autumn, our services are already under the sorts of pressure we might more typically expect in the deepest depths of winter.

“Over the summer we worked closely with our frontline teams to develop an ambitious plan that will help us recover from the challenges we faced throughout the pandemic. Our plan was approved by the NHS Board on Monday 3 October 2022 and sets out clear actions against six priority areas.

“These focus on how we will support our staff, improve recruitment and retention, recover and protect planned care, modernise unscheduled care, develop social care and improve the sustainability of our local system.

“However, even though we are already working to deliver against that plan, things are only likely to get more challenging as the weeks progress. And while I wish I could offer a more comforting outlook, I think that every one of us needs to be prepared for a very tough next six months.

“What will this mean for people in real terms?

“People should be aware that while we will be doing everything we can to treat those who have been waiting longest as part of our commitment to waiting times, further disruption is likely to the backlog of scheduled elective procedures as we see a continued high volume of people presenting with urgent, unscheduled and complex needs.

“Much of this disruption might be very last minute, because in every situation we will be working to provide these procedures until such time that unfolding circumstances dictate we are unable.

“If you have a health need, please assist us and those who are also in need by considering the best point to obtain support.

“In many non-emergency situations, visiting NHSInform.scot or calling NHS 24 on 111 can be a good first option.

“We’re conscious that people have been waiting a long time for procedures and appointments. Meanwhile, others have waiting to hear back for longer than they should in relation to concerns and complaints. We’re working to keep people updated and we appreciate continued patience.

“Within social care, we continue to face a very significant challenge in meeting the volume of need. Staff who provide care at home services are such a vital part of the whole health and social care system, and we simply don’t have enough of them.

“Similarly, residential care provided by independent providers within the partnership is another area of great challenge, as the volume of need continues to grow faster than our resources.

“And it would all be impossible without the thousands of unpaid Carers in our region. Their vital role needs to be recognised along with the very great pressures they will also be facing this winter.

“We face all of this amid a marked and growing increase in costs, with a recurring £20 million deficit within the Health and Social Care Partnership’s budget, and with the prospect of even greater financial challenges over the next three years.

“For the staff across health and social care, this will be an extremely challenging winter, following on from the stresses of the last three years which should already have been enough to break any system.

“We will continue to rely on our staff and their tireless, professional efforts to provide the highest quality care, but we must all be realistic to the challenges that we face as a region.”