Winter is a time when those we care for can be more likely to need to go into hospital. This year, there is the added stress and complication that hospitals are placing restrictions on visiting.

Hospitals are generally asking that those who want to visit call the ward beforehand to organise. But do check the current rules for the hospital you are visiting beforehand.

In some cases, one nominated person can visit the patient throughout their stay for one hour a day. However, others are allowing two at the bedside at a time and rules are under constant review, so do check.

If the person you care for is going to hospital as an outpatient, check ahead to see if you can attend with them. If they have a physical or mental disability, or are under the age of 16, you should be able to attend with them.

Hospital discharge

Every hospital has its own discharge policy, which you can access through the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

Gov.uk have some useful advice on what the discharge process should look like. A patient should not be discharged until everything is in place, including arranging extra help needed, equipment and any home adaptations.

Mobilise have some information on types of discharge process. As someone’s carer, you should be fully involved in their discharge and feel that everything is in place to enable you to care for them.

Intermediate care is free for a maximum of six weeks after discharge and social services will check during this time that the care plan is right. If care is going to be needed for longer than six weeks, social services should work with you to put an ongoing care plan in place.

Our Dorset have produced the following leaflet on Discharge from hospital and recovery at home – information for carers.

Healthcare

Often our first instinct is to call our GP surgery with any healthcare concerns, but you may be able to obtain advice more quickly by using another service.

NHS 111 can be accessed online or by calling 111 from your phone. Advisors can tell you where to get help for your symptoms, if you’re not sure what to do. They can give general health information and advice and advise how to get a repeat prescription and where to get an emergency supply of your prescribed medicine. The phone line can be very busy at times, but you’ll be given an estimated wait time when you call and that wait time is generally actually shorter than the estimate you’re given.

A pharmacist might also be able to help, depending on the advice needed. All pharmacies can give advice on minor health concerns, such as minor injuries, tummy trouble, aches and pains and skin rashes. They can help with how to take a medicine safely and help you to understand the correct dose of a new medicine and how often you need to take it. Pharmacies can also provide an emergency supply of medicine – subject to the decision of the pharmacist – although you may need to pay for an emergency supply.

If you have a non-life-threatening illness or injury, you may be able to access advice and care without going to an Emergency Department.

There is one urgent treatment centre in Dorset– Weymouth Community Hospital – which will treat minor illnesses and injuries, such as fractures and lacerations, insect and animal bites, stitches, dressing care, minor cuts and bruises and minor burns strains. Appointments for can be accessed through NHS 111 online or calling NHS 111.

There are also four minor injury units open 7 days a week from 8am – 8pm in Swanage, Shaftesbury and Wimborne and 9am-6pm in Bridport. These are open for walk-in patients and for those who have contacted NHS 111 and been advised to attend.

Minor Injury Units in Blandford, Portland and Sherborne (the Yeatman Hospital) have been closed temporarily.

Find out more information on the Dorset Healthcare Trust website.

Transport

There is non-emergency patient transport available if you are struggling to attend a GP or hospital appointment. More information can be found on the Dorset Patient Transport website.

Weymouth Community Transport is a voluntary driving scheme for those who do not qualify for hospital transport or do not have access to their own transport, to attend medical appointments. They support beyond those who live in Weymouth and will offer quotes for longer journeys.  To book email community.transport@wcv.org.uk or phone 01305 783999. You can find out more on the Help and Kindness website.

If you want further information or advice, you can give us a call on 0800 368 8349.