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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.

At the moment hospitals are generally asking that people who want to visit call ahead of time to organise. But do check the current rules for the hospital you are visiting beforehand.

In some cases, one nominated person can visit a 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 the discharge processes you might encounter. 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.

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 can often end up being shorter than the estimate.

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 are three urgent treatment centres in Wiltshire – Salisbury Walk-in Health Centre, RUH Bath Urgent Treatment Centre and GWH Swindon Urgent Treatment Centre – 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 these centres can be accessed through NHS 111 online or calling NHS 111.

There are also two minor injury units open 7 days a week from 8am – 8pm in Chippenham and Trowbridge. These are open for walk-in patients and for those who have contacted NHS 111 and been advised to attend. More information can be found here.

Transport

There is non-emergency patient transport available if you are struggling to attend a GP or hospital appointment. More information can be found here.

Community First also runs Link schemes in Wiltshire led by volunteers. If you need help to find your local transport group you can contact transport@communityfirst.org.uk or telephone 01380 722 475 to speak to a member of the Community Transport team.

If you need any further information or advice, you can give us a call on 0800 181 4118.