Health and council social care staff are working around the clock to keep hospital beds available during the busy winter period.

Through the Sandwell Health and Wellbeing Board, the council and NHS partner organisations are jointly planning how to prevent admissions that could be avoided and speed up how quickly people leave hospital once they are well enough.

Sandwell has benefited from an extra £11.5 million of Government investment into the Better Care Fund during 2017/18.

The money will provide vital protection for social care services and ensure the council is able to fully meet the care and support needs of vulnerable people in the borough.

The funding will also provide additional winter capacity across a range of community-based services, delivering more home care packages and intermediate care beds to those in need.

This will help to prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and enable people to return home quickly and safely after a stay in hospital. Board chair Councillor Ann Shackleton, who is also the council's cabinet member for social care, said: "I want to thank everyone who's working so hard in our hospitals. "Health and social care workers work very closely together to assess patients' individual needs, support their treatment and help them home or into suitable care as soon as they are ready." The situation is monitored daily, with extra staff and care spaces on standby if there's greater demand than expected.

The Older Person's Assessment Unit and Joint Discharge Team are based at Sandwell Hospital. They both bring together health and social care workers and play a key role in assessing and supporting patients to ensure safe and timely discharges from hospital.

Rachel Barlow, chief operating officer at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (which runs Sandwell Hospital), said: "We welcome the support for our patients from social services opening up extra beds in our community and have implemented additional measures to improve the movement of patients through our hospitals. "This includes speeding up the discharge process by ensuring common prescription medication is available on our wards to reduce delays whilst pharmacy fills prescriptions for patients to take home.

"We've also allocated lead consultants to be based full-time on medical wards, so that decisions about ongoing care can be made without delay." Dr Nick Harding, chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "There is no doubt that winter is a challenging time, but all of our patients can be assured that we have taken important measures to ensure that they receive the right treatment at the right time.

This winter, patients in Sandwell and West Birmingham are benefiting from a GP extended access service on evenings and weekends. Evening and weekend appointments are now available with GPs, practice nurses and other healthcare professionals. "Our priority is to keep our patients safe. So, if you’re not sure what the appropriate service is, call NHS 111 and speak to someone who can provide advice on the best course of action."

Proposals to improve a ‘regeneration corridor’ from Oldbury to Tipton are moving forward after backing from Sandwell Council’s Cabinet.

The Dudley Port plan aims to make residents’ quality of life better by improving housing and access to green spaces and public transport. It will also develop more links to the wider region, improve air quality and encourage healthier lifestyles.

Councillor Paul Moore, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is a blueprint to improve the area, building on existing rail and bus services and the planned Midland Metro extension. “We want to give residents, commuters and visitors more transport choices and improve links to homes and jobs across the region. “We’ve taken on board comments received during a public consultation in the summer.

This approved plan will now help us to work with other organisations and apply for funding to bring forward improvements.” The Dudley Port corridor is the area from Oldbury town centre towards Tipton, including land between Dudley Road East and the Birmingham Canal.

It also includes Sheepwash Nature Reserve and Great Bridge town centre to the north. The Dudley Port Supplementary Planning Document uses ‘Garden City’ principles aimed at improving the local environment. Now approved by Cabinet, it will form part of the council’s Local Plan.

Sandwell health bosses are encouraging local people to take care with how much they drink ahead of Booze Black Friday.

Booze Black Friday – the last Friday before Christmas – is the most popular night for office and factory Christmas parties, which consequently makes it one of the busiest nights in the year for ambulances and the police services. Sales for alcohol massively increase on Booze Black Friday in comparison with Fridays at other times of the year.

Both supermarkets and bars and restaurants see a massive increase in the amount of alcohol being consumed. Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “Over the festive period a lot of us like to have a drink or two. However, it is important that people are aware of the short and long-term health risks of drinking alcohol. “There is lots of great advice and support available locally on how to cut down or remain booze-free.” Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week risks damaging your health.

Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven 175ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine. For more advice and information on how to keep in control of your drinking please go to:

The launch of a new banking protocol to help people from becoming victims of scams and doorstep frauds has been welcomed by councillors and trading standards bosses in Sandwell.

The new protocol will mean that financial institutions will work in partnership with trading standards and other law enforcement agencies.

The main objectives of the protocol are:

• To identify and support individuals/victims who have been tricked into going to their local branch to withdraw or transfer funds to fraudsters;

• To prevent fraud from taking place;

• To provide support to the victim to reduce them from further victimisation; and

• Where possible and able, to take appropriate legal action against the fraudsters.

Bob Charnley, trading standards manager in Sandwell, said: “Working together provides a better response for victims.

Ultimately we hope to prevent the fraud from taking place.” And Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “The banking protocol is something that shows how working together we can make a real difference for innocent consumers, protecting them from becoming victims of financial abuse.”

The Warm Homes Fund is a £150million fund funded by the National Grid and administered by Affordable Warmth Solutions (AWS).

The fund aims to help make households warmer, healthier and cheaper to heat.

Running over 3-years and providing capital funding for the installation of affordable heating solutions in fuel poor households who do not use mains gas as their primary heating fuel.

This can include:

• Condensing Gas

• Oil and LPG boilers

• Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps

• Bio Mass Boilers; etc.

The Fund is open to bids from local authorities, housing associations and their partners and is split in to three categories focusing on urban, rural and health-related solutions.

Successful proposals will highlight:

• The number of fuel poor households supported

• Strategic fit with the Governments Fuel Poverty Strategy

• Value for money

• The benefit created i.e. energy efficiency increases and bill savings

• Strength of delivery plans, project management and assurance of delivery.

The closing date for applications is the 9th February 2018.