Plans are in place to ensure we continue to provide high quality care for all our patients as we head into what we expect to be a challenging winter.

We are already seeing higher demand for our accident and emergency departments. In October 2023, we cared for 22,401 patients in one of our three A&Es, up 15 per cent compared with the same month last year. We also need to continue to tackle the long waits for planned care that built up during the pandemic and more recent periods of industrial action.  

Our integrated care system in north west London has funded a range of sector-wide developments to help people get the care they need as close to home as possible, helping to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and support patients at home to enable prompt discharge from hospital.  We were also awarded an additional £2.7million to help us care for more patients in our hospitals. Our winter initiatives include: 

  • Opening more beds – creating an extra 24 staffed-beds across St Mary’s and Charing Cross hospitals. 
  • Increasing staffing –
    • additional doctors in our emergency departments to speed up admission and discharge decisions
    • additional staffing out of hours in imaging and site operations
  • Providing extra care for older, frail patients – helping them get the care they need with ongoing frailty support services in our emergency departments to avoid any unnecessary admissions. 
  • Expanding our ‘same day emergency care’ services (urgent care away from the emergency department, without the need for an overnight stay) -
    • enabling direct referrals from NHS111 and London Ambulance Service, allowing suitable patients to bypass A&E completely
    • additional capacity at Charing Cross Hospital.   
  • Ensuring patients who become critically ill get the care they need as quickly as possible – moving to 24/7 availability for our critical care outreach teams at St Mary’s, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals.
  • Helping patients get home as soon as possible – using Homelink, a clinician-led service providing hospital-at-home care, to help patients who are medically fit to leave hospital but who need some extra support, to safely receive this at home.
  • Providing more specialist care at home – increasing our use of virtual wards, where suitable patients can be digitally monitored from home while under our care; over 1,600 patients were cared for on our virtual wards last year.
  • Increasing bed availability by reducing ‘turnaround’ times – extending the use of our discharge lounge at Charing Cross until 7pm, providing a comfortable space away from the wards for patients who are being discharged to wait safely before they leave hospital.

We are also focusing on the health and wellbeing of our staff this winter. This includes on-site winter vaccine hubs, free breakroom supplies (funded by Imperial Health Charity) and our expanded staff counselling service. 

Claire Hook, chief operating officer at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We expect the next few months to be very challenging. Our teams have put in a huge amount of work to make the most of our capacity this winter and ensure we continue to provide the best possible care. 

“It will be more important than ever that we also work closely with our partners and local communities to ensure people only come into hospital when they really need to and are able to leave as soon as they are medically fit. One key goal is to make sure everyone knows where it’s best to get the care they need when they’re unwell. If you’re not sure, NHS111 is always available - online or via phone - to give advice about where to go as well as treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. Our A&E departments are also always available - walk-in or via 999 – for emergency or life-threatening conditions.”