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Summer Planning Toolkit modules

Module 6: Staffing

Surge capacity

Surge capacity

Surge capacity is the capability of a healthcare system to manage and respond to the unpredictable and sudden increases in demand for healthcare services. 

Many practice staff will take planned leave over the Christmas and New Year break, which may result in staffing shortages. Practices in popular holiday destinations may experience a dual issue of staff shortages due to sickness or holidays, paired with increases in patients due to a general increase in population over the summer.

Planning for a surge in patient demand will help to ensure that your practice has enough willing and able staff available and resources on hand to care for an increased patient load.

Regular whole-of-practice meetings are encouraged to ensure that all practitioners and staff have a consistent understanding of the issues surrounding sudden surges in patient demand, and how your practice’s surge capacity management plan can help in minimising any stress that these surges may place on the practice team. It is important to do this at the beginning of summer, especially if major changes to operations are planned.

Practices will need to be prepared for the following during the summer months:

  • managing staffing, including absences and extended hours
  • managing routine summer holiday leave with contracted doctors, principal doctors, reception and other team members
  • ensuring adequate patient cover, whether by locums, collaborative agreements with other local practices or extending clinic hours
  • if your practice has reduced hours, considering ensuring all health summaries for your patients are accurate and accessible
  • practices in popular holiday destinations who are seeing a lot of new patients could access shared health summaries on the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR)
  • implementation and communication of plans and procedures in case of an emergency
  • ensuring contact details for staff members are up to date
  • having sufficient PPE
  • hosting more patients in the waiting room, ensuring physical distancing is considered
  • managing increases in patients requiring appointments.