“Whole system” approaches to care, preventative work to keep people out of hospital, and a flu immunisation programme are just some of the measures taken across the country to pre-empt winter pressures affecting Health and Social Care, the Association for Directors in Adult Social Services (ADASS) reveal today.

ADASS asked Directors of Adult Social Services across the country to describe the biggest challenge they faced over the winter period and what measures they took to overcome it.

Twenty departments reported back, describing a range of positive outcomes – from a reduction in delayed transfers of care to zero in some areas, to significant improvements in quality of life for a number of people who have used social care services for a long time.

Examples included: 

  • Derby faced severe pressures when an intermediate care service was closed twice in three weeks, over a busy winter period. By effectively putting in place an escalation policy to deal with pressure from the local acute hospital, the Department was able to ensure that the Department experienced zero delayed transfers of care through social care over that period.

  • Wigan’s Health and Social Care teams rolled out a comprehensive staff flu immunisation programme, which included signing up “flu champions” in every care home funded by the Better Care Fund. 95 per cent of residents in care homes took up the offer of vaccination against the flu, and rapid assessment of suspected flu cases, all contributed to outbreaks being managed, and to a joined-up approach to Social Care which helped discharge patients quickly from hospital, and help care for patients at home where possible.

  • Cornwall adopted a “whole system” approach to adult social care, in an attempt to reduce delayed transfers of care through social care, and has experienced continued improvement over the last few months. Adult social care teems have worked flexibility to alleviate winter pressure, and have spread the load across partner teams, with a commitment to being available to assist Urgent Care activity running from the Council Chief Executive to frontline social workers.

  • Peterborough has been keen to establish a “front door” to council services to help prevent delayed transfers of care and reduce winter pressures on hospitals. Their early help offer which includes a range of universal services including benefits advice, occupational therapist support, assistive technology and sensory help. This has reduced the amount of social care assessments done by 70 per cent and enabled the social care staff to effectively manage demand.

  • Buckinghamshire battled the elements to provide first class care. An older lady with dementia had been left at home alone after her husband was admitted to hospital with a medical emergency. The snow was making it very difficult for carers to get to vulnerable people in the community, so a bespoke “Resilience Group” with 4 X 4S drove out to collect the lady in question to take her to a respite care home with a social worker. The lady was very confused when they met her and not dressed for winter in a light night shirt, with the house not warm enough and no signs she had eaten or drunk that day. A local support worker was found who looked after the lady through the night and enabled her to sleep through the night, settle, and stay safely in her own home.

  • Greenwich faced capacity issues in the run up to the winter period, with some homes having staff shortage issues. By creating a way of managing and responding to highest need, they developed a way of working as part of a team to ensure the best possible use of resources. The Director of Health and Adult Services said: “Social Care staff and their colleagues in the NHS, Ambulance services, Residential and Nursing Care, Dom Care and the voluntary sector show incredible dedication. I’m sure it’s true across the country, but people have worked hard in the most difficult circumstances and the colleagues who work together every week have performed brilliantly. We need to continue to support these workers and thank them for the work they have done and continue to do. The system is under pressure not because of any failure of effort or imagination on their part.

 Margaret Willcox, President of ADASS, said:

“Despite the funding crisis affecting adult social care, our brilliant social care staff have been out in all weathers over winter, every minute of every day, making a crucial difference to older people and adults with disabilities.

“It can be easy in the face of these challenges to lose sight of the fantastic work that social care staff are doing up and down the country, and these examples of innovation demonstrate that.

“From preventing flu to effective triage of social care resources, our staff are using their resources in the most effective way possible to make a difference. These examples show that teamwork makes the difference when it comes to providing personalised care.

“Key to all of this is making sure we reduce delayed transfers of care, and try and keep people cared for in their homes as long as possible, whilst ensuring any stay in hospital is as short as possible. Innovation can make real strides in enabling this to happen, but it can only go so far.

“Whilst we celebrate the efforts of our staff to reduce winter pressures on social care, ultimately, with a £2 billion shortfall in funding facing our sector, only a long-term, sustainable funding plan can enable us to provide the person-centred approach to social care we badly need. The upcoming green paper on social care would be an ideal opportunity for the Government to set out this plan.”

For more information on some of the positive examples of Adult Social Care staff adapting to cope with the winter pressures, please contact the ADASS media team on mediaenquiries@adass.org.uk