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It's that time of year again. As NHS trusts think about gearing up to deal with additional strains on resources over the winter period, we thought we'd take a closer look at the concept of Winter Pressures teams.  

As we say goodbye to the light nights and summer weather, it won't be long before we see a proliferation of recruitment ads for occupational therapists and physiotherapists to work in NHS Winter Pressures teams. As flu and other illnesses put extra stress on hospitals, the idea is to address the potential shortage of beds by reducing admissions and speeding up discharges. That means increasing the provision of occupational therapy and physiotherapy locums, not only to help patients recover more quickly while in hospital, but also to manage as many as possible of them in the community and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

There has been a 35% increase in emergency hospital admissions over the last 10 years. Compounding the problem is the issue of urgent readmissions within 30 days of discharge. Since 2001-2 there has been a continuous rise in these of 2.6% per year.

Following on from a countrywide Winter Pressures funding initiative that was launched for the winter of 2013-14, the Government has pledged an additional £350 million for this coming winter. This will be distributed to clinical commissioning groups (CCCs) to focus on "what local areas can do to minimise unnecessary pressures on A&E and how to treat more patients." 

Are you an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who has worked in a Winter Pressures team? Are you a team manager who has experience of recruiting locum OTs and physios for the busy winter period? If so, we'd like to hear from you. 

What do you think of the Winter Pressures initiative? How did it work for you last year? Are plans in place at your local NHS trust for this winter? Do you think the system could be improved and, if so, how? We'd love to receive comments and ideas about tackling winter pressures from frontline professionals who have to deal first-hand with the challenges.

To give us your views, please comment on this article or email n.logan@sanctuarypersonnel.com

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