Health and social care: winter preparedness plan 2023-2024

This winter plan represents a whole system approach to responding to a surge in demand for health and social care services and sets out the actions to help relieve pressure points across the system. The measures outlined are applicable throughout the year when we may face increased pressures.

Priority Five. Support the delivery of health and social care services that are as safe as possible throughout the autumn and winter period, including delivery of a winter vaccination programme for Covid-19 and flu.

Protecting people who may be most impacted by severe illness, hospitalisation or death from Covid-19 and flu, through vaccination, is a key means of protecting individuals from illness and reducing demand on our health and social care systems. We want to see as many people protected from Covid-19 and flu as possible this winter to help protect people’s health and alleviate pressure on the health and social care system. The winter vaccinations programme started on 4 September and the majority of vaccinations will be complete by 11 December to ensure protection before the main winter pressures begin (the programme will run until 31 March 2024).

Scotland is the only nation offering a free flu vaccine this winter to everyone aged 50-64 and deployment of both Covid-19 and flu vaccinations continues to be guided by advice from the JCVI. This winter programme focuses on those at greater risk of severe illness from Covid and flu; namely those aged 65 and over and those aged 6 months to 64 years at clinical risk. Priority is also being given to those who are unpaid carers.

Improved demand and capacity forecasting around Covid-19, flu and underlying winter pressure scenarios is informing thinking and scenario planning to help national and local partners better understand and respond to the challenges being experienced. These scenarios will be adjusted to incorporate emerging data and evidence throughout the winter.

Alongside this it will be important for us to continue to closely monitoring rates of respiratory viruses including Covid-19 and provide infection prevention and control advice and guidance as required.

In addition to vaccination and infection prevention, social connections, exercise and meaningful activity are vital for the wellbeing and quality of life of everyone, but in particular those living in a care home. It therefore remains fundamentally important that people living in care homes remain connected to their loved ones even in infectious outbreak situations in line with Public Health Scotland Covid-19 Guidance.

How we will jointly deliver this priority:

  • Work with Boards to operationalise delivery of the winter vaccination programme, bringing this forward for those at highest risk where possible (care home residents, people aged 75 and over and people with weakened immune systems aged 12 and over) as a precautionary measure in light of the emergence of new variant BA.2.86.
  • Work with partners to ensure all eligible health and social care workers, carers and household contacts of the immunosuppressed have access to their flu and Covid-19 vaccines to help build resilience within the health and social care system. Encouraging high vaccination uptake within care homes in particular is vital.
  • Continue to work with Executive Board Nurse Directors, Chief Social Work Officers, and Care Homes to collaborate on the delivery of person-centred safe care and support to enable people to be looked after in their communities, where possible
  • Offer children aged 2-5 years the flu vaccination from the outset of the programme to ensure they receive the earliest protection to help stop the virus spreading. To have maximum impact early completion of vaccination amongst this group is essential.
  • Offer the flu vaccination to all school age children in Scotland.
  • Offer seasonal flu vaccination to poultry and outbreak team workers. This is in response to the increased vigilance and monitoring of outbreaks associated with Avian Influenza.
  • Work with Boards and wider partners to use data, along with local knowledge, to target outreach work and reduce barriers to vaccinations amongst under-served communities and where uptake continues to be lowest, including Polish, Gypsy/Traveller, African and Black/Caribbean ethnic groups and people in areas of highest SIMD.
  • Work with Boards to vaccinate all cohorts as advised by JCVI, by 11 December.
  • Continue to support and use demand and capacity forecasting around Covid-19, flu and underlying winter pressure scenarios to inform thinking and scenario planning.
  • With partners such as PHS, continue to closely monitor rates of respiratory viruses including Covid-19 and provide infection prevention and control advice and guidance as required.
  • Continue to work with local partners to ensure family/friend visits are supported in all care settings.



Back to top