Getting ready for winter

Our plans for maintaining high quality care and how everyone can help

Plans are in place for ensuring Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust continues to provide high quality care for all our patients throughout the winter months, responding to the extra challenges the season is likely to bring. This covers Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye hospitals.

Chief executive Dr Tracey Batten said: “We have been working closely with NHS and local authority partners and others to make sure we have prepared as much as possible and that we are able to respond flexibly to any new needs, such as a winter virus or a particularly cold and icy spell. We also want to help make sure patients and the public know what they can do to help get the best out of the NHS this winter.”

Key initiatives in place so far for this winter

An 18-bed ‘intermediate care’ ward has opened at Charing Cross in partnership with Central London Community Healthcare to support patients who need short-term rehabilitation or recuperation. We also have 35 extra beds across four wards at Charing Cross and St Mary’s hospitals which can be opened as and when needed.

New ambulatory care units at St Mary’s and Charing Cross hospitals are now open to allow more patients to have urgent assessment and treatment without having to be admitted and to stay overnight.

As part of the planning for the closure of Hammersmith Hospital A&E, our urgent care centres (UCCs) at Hammersmith and at St Mary’s have been expanded to join with Charing Cross UCC in providing care for urgent but non-life threatening conditions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our older people’s rapid assessment service and cancer assessment units – both at Charing Cross – have also been extended to seven days a week.

In addition, we are doing all we can to ensure our staff stay healthy throughout the winter, including through a major flu vaccination programme currently underway.

We will publish information on our website regularly to show how our services are performing and, if necessary, what additional actions we are planning.

How everyone can help

The winter months are bringing particular additional pressures for A&E departments across England, including for our two A&Es at St Mary’s and Charing Cross. While we have plans in place to increase urgent and emergency capacity and to strengthen our systems to ensure emergency patients are treated as quickly as possible, it is also important for the public to know what they need to do to keep well and where to get expert advice.

NHS England has launched its ‘Feeling under the weather?’ public awareness campaign to encourage people to seek advice early from their local pharmacist if they are ‘feeling under the weather’. More generally, it is very helpful for everyone to know the most appropriate place to get care for their needs, including:

  • Your local pharmacist - a highly trained and a trusted source of information available at your local pharmacy or chemist shop.
  • NHS Choices website - to locate services, learn more about winter illnesses or get winter health advice.
  • Your GP- who can assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems, and who will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.
  • NHS 111 - to call for advice or if you’re not sure which NHS service you need.

If you do need to attend hospital, choose the service best for you:

  • Urgent care centre (UCC) - for minor illnesses and injuries that are urgent but not life threatening such as a sprain or strain, sore throat, cuts that may need stiches, minor broken bones such as a finger or if you need an x-ray.
  • Accident and emergency (A&E) department - for people with major, life-threatening illnesses and injuries, which can include: loss of consciousness, severe chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding that cannot be stopped, having fits or badly broken bones. In an emergency, call 999.

For more information please contact the press office.