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.

Learning from Last Winter

Our approach this year has built on our response to previous winters, including the most recent, where we adopted a whole system approach to managing the extreme and unprecedented pressures we experienced. Last winter, we saw unacceptable waits for ambulances, queues of ambulances outside A&E, long delays in A&E departments, high levels of hospital occupancy, high levels of delayed discharge, high levels of unmet need within our communities, increased demand for GP appointments and increased demand for social care packages and assessment. Local systems, and the individuals and organisations that work within it to deliver health and care to our most vulnerable individuals – worked hard to meet high levels of demand and ensure people received care when they needed it most. However, we know that complex challenges remain and there is still work to be done to ensure people can access the care they need.

To inform our approach moving forwards, we undertook a comprehensive exercise to understand the lessons learned from last winter which focused on the development, delivery, and governance of the published actions. The report makes several recommendations which have been considered and incorporated into the current winter planning work.

The report highlighted that some actions and interventions had greater impact than others. However, even those with lower impact were still instrumental in building the resilience of the system to respond to surges in demand so should not be discounted. For example, Scottish Government made additional funding available for international recruitment in October 2022. We have learned that earlier communication of this intervention may have allowed local Boards and Partnerships to begin recruitment so that this could provide additional capacity in time for winter. For this year, we have worked with partners to bring forward recruitment campaigns.

Critically, the report highlighted that to be effective, planning should begin much earlier and that is why this year, work began across the health and social care system in early Spring 2023. This included the launch of our Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan in March 2023, which set out a series of actions to be implemented and delivered throughout the year to build resilience and capacity in our systems.



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