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OCT 17/2013

Nursing: winter pressures

With reports of a bitterly cold winter on the way and rumours of an early onset of snow, the seasonal increase in patients is looking to be even more demanding on nursing staff.

Winter flu

Cold weather can trigger a wave of health problems, with the most vulnerable members of society at increased risk. To minimise such issues, health secretary Jeremy Hunt outlined new measures in September to increase flu vaccinations and hopefully stem any potential health crisis. This is hoped to help dramatically reduce the 27,000 people each year who are admitted to hospitals with flu.

Ambitious plans to overhaul the way in which accident and emergency departments cope with this increased demand were also explained, with 75 per cent of staff set to be vaccinated against flu, mitigating absences and therefore reducing staffing demands.


This winter 53 A&E departments across the country, which have been classified as 'at risk', will have access to government funding to boost consultant care, improve care of those with chronic conditions and better integrate with other healthcare professionals, such as social care teams.

As part of the 'joined up' service which has been promised, IT systems should also allow for the sharing of patient records between hospitals, GPs and social care services. This will allow for information to be transferred more efficiently and effectively, allowing nurses more time to treat patients.

Mr Hunt explained to journalists in September: "This winter is going to be tough - that's why the government is acting now to make sure patients receive a great, safe service, even with the added pressures the cold weather brings."

This added money should also help to increase the number of nursing jobs, including permanent and locum workers, reducing the workload of individuals and minimising overtime hours during the festive period.

Southport and Ormskirk hospitals were among the many hospital trusts to recently begin recruiting new staff after receiving £4 million of extra government funding. More than 100 new employees are now being hired to relieve seasonal pressures. This includes mostly permanent staff, ranging from pharmacists to nurses and radiologists.

Trust chief executive Jonathan Parry told the SouthPort Visiter in September that the successful funding bid came after "an unprecedented rise in people needing urgent care last winter, particularly older people attending Southport Hospital".

As they prepare for winter, many hospitals and healthcare institutions around the UK are looking to increase the number of nursing staff they employ in order to ease these pressures.

Working over the festive period

Over the festive period in particular many nurses will notice an increase in the number of patients they see, especially in accident and emergency departments as alcohol-related injuries are more likely to occur around Christmas and New Year.

This is not something that can be wholly avoided, however making sure that you are fully rested and focused on your shift will make it go a lot smoother and safer. Planning ahead and trying to get into a regular sleeping pattern are both vital, as is making sure that you take regular breaks and keep plenty of healthy snacks in your bag to keep your energy levels up.

If you have to work during Christmas this can be difficult and put a strain on your personal life, however don't forget to acknowledge the day and celebrate it in any way you can. Something as simple as handing out Christmas cards to patients on the ward could really help make their day and help keep everyone, including you, in good spirits.

Medacs Healthcare supplies agency nurses to over 150 NHS hospitals throughout England and says advance planning for peak periods is paramount.

“Over the festive period, there is a huge spike in demand for agency nurses, and filling all the positions available can be a real challenge.  As usual, we’ll be offering new candidates incentives to join us, and hoping more of our current pool of nurses will be tempted to top up their earnings this year as the financial downturn drags on. The NHS is offering some very attractive rates for registered general nurses and healthcare assistants willing to do additional shifts and they can rest assured that the Medacs Healthcare team will also be offering full out of hours support to all our candidates during the festive break”.  

Jane Couper, Nursing Operations Manager 

Nurses interested in topping up their earnings with extra shifts can register for temporary work with Medacs Healthcare here.

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