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.


This Winter Plan represents a whole system approach to responding to a surge in demand for health and social care services. While the focus of this plan is on the winter months, the measures outlined are applicable to other times of the year when our health and social care system faces increased pressures. We are encouraging systems to adopt a preventative approach as far as possible to mitigate and reduce harm by ensuring people who need health and social care services are receiving the right care, at the right time and in the right place.

Whilst this plan provides a national overview, in developing this plan we recognise the important contribution of the voluntary and independent sector locally in delivering care and acknowledge that these services are commissioned through local arrangements. This Plan seeks to address the specific operational pressures experienced across the health and social care system over winter. We have engaged with the independent and voluntary sector as partners and leaders in the delivery of social care across Scotland. Alongside partners, the Scottish Government and COSLA continue to discuss the creation of a National Care Service which will deliver improvements for people accessing community health and social care support.

Although the health and social care system is well-used to planning, preparing and delivering care ahead of and throughout winter, we have strengthened our approach this year to reflect our experiences over the last few years. In doing so, we are embedding the following key components to support a more resilient health and care system better aligned to meeting people’s needs by:

  • Whole system focus and oversight, recognising the critical interdependencies across the system.
  • Earlier engagement and planning for winter than ever before.
  • Having an approach that acknowledges and responds to pressures across the whole system.
  • Implementing lessons learned from 2022/23 and previously.
  • Supporting local systems to develop their demand and capacity plans to identify current and future requirements to support surge response.
  • Developing a national target operating model with key resilience measures and a clear understanding of the impact that improvement work will have to achieve our targets.
  • Taking action on returns from a preparedness checklist for local systems, ensuring we have a clear understanding of risks to the system both locally and nationally
  • Improving data quality and reporting to support local and national assurance and understand when escalation is appropriate.
  • Targeting interventions where there is greatest need.
  • Utilising proven digital tools to maximise capacity.
  • Providing the conditions needed for a ‘home first’ approach.



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