Preparing the NHS for winter during a pandemic

Additional £37 million to support health and care services. 

An NHS Winter Preparedness Plan outlining steps to ensure a resilient and safe health care system has been published.

With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continuing to rise, £1.1 billion has already been allocated to NHS Health Boards and Integration Authorities to meet the costs of responding to the pandemic. An additional £37 million has been announced today to support services cope with the virus, vaccinations and Test and Protect and the delivery of normal winter illnesses and weather. As a result of these continued pressures, NHS Scotland will remain in a state of emergency over winter.

To complement the NHS Winter Preparedness Plan, a comprehensive Adult Social Care Winter plan will be published in early November. This will focus on delivering maximum protection for people who use social care support in residential and community settings and in their own homes, and for those who provide that care, including unpaid carers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Every effort must be made to prepare the NHS for the pressures it will face in the coming months, including normal winter illnesses, the impact of any severe weather, a significant resurgence of COVID-19 and a potential no-deal Brexit. Due to the continued dedication of health and social care staff, and support from the public, NHS Scotland has not been overwhelmed at any point during the pandemic. Our over-riding priority is to ensure the this continues to be the case, not only to save lives and treat COVID-19 patients but to make sure we can continue to deliver healthcare to those who need it.    

“I am absolutely determined that we will do everything in our power to be ready for these challenges. We have learnt a lot from the first wave of the pandemic and we are better prepared. We must also recognise that we cannot respond successfully to any of these challenges, if we do not work to support the health, wellbeing and resilience of our staff, of whom we have asked so much already. Our Winter Preparedness Plan sets out the range of actions we are taking to support our incredible health and care services and our staff, and outlines how we will work with them to manage this next phase.“

Actions outlined in the plan include: 

  • doubling the number of people protected by the flu vaccine to nearly 2.5 million and preparing to deliver a safe, effective vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as available
  • increasing testing capacity from around 27,000 to at least 65,000 tests per day by winter, drawing upon both Scottish and UK-wide lab capacities. Three new Regional Testing Hubs will be fully operational by early December, providing an additional 22,000 daily tests
  • continuing to ensure Health Boards have access to sufficient contact tracers to respond to local surges, with additional national resilience from the National Contact Tracing Centre
  • the ability to repurpose approximately 3,000 acute beds nationwide for COVID-19 patients; including doubling ICU capacity within one week, trebling it in two weeks and quadrupling to over 700 should circumstances demand, subject to staffing and supplies
  • investing £20 million to support the redesign of urgent care and ensuring a consistent national framework to unplanned care
  • continuing to provide care and treatment for both urgent and routine health needs, including treatment for cancer and other life threatening conditions, and where we can, restarting a number of diagnostic and screening services, and elective procedures
  • investing over £78 million to restore as much elective activity as circumstances allow, supporting over 70,000 outpatient appointments, over 13,800 elective procedures and over 98,000 diagnostic tests
  • supporting the NHS Golden Jubilee hospital to treat a further 13,000 patients before the end of March 2021
  • maintaining the NHS Louisa Jordan as a crucial national facility for either COVID-19 or non-COVID patients, building on the 4,000 outpatients who have been seen there since July
  • supporting key workers in health and social care by ensuring staff ‘hubs’ and rest areas are maintained and establishing a Mental Health Network, backed initially by £5 million of funding
  • maintaining the COVID-19 Community Pathway with local Community Assessment Centres in every Board area
  • maintaining the Out of Hours Service in all Board areas for patients who need to be seen urgently and cannot wait for their GP practice to open


Read the NHS Winter Preparedness Plan.


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