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 Three. Focus on recruitment, retention and wellbeing of our health and social care workforce.

Our highly skilled and committed workforce is the cornerstone of our response every winter. In order to meet demand, we must continue to focus on recruitment and retention of our workforce, ensuring that we support the wellbeing of our staff through challenging periods of high demand. We are pursuing a range of different strategies to nurture and grow the workforce in both health and social care over the long term. Within our health workforce, for example, this includes continuing to grow controlled healthcare subjects intake in line with evolving demand projections and supporting the expansion of trainee doctor posts, to reflect the changing demands on our health and social care system.

Between 700,000 and 800,000 people provide unpaid care for a relative or friend at home and within other community or residential supports, and so we must also consider and respond to the wellbeing and support needs of Scotland’s hugely valued unpaid carers, as well as supporting flexible access to Self-Directed Support for people who access support and their carers.

How we will jointly deliver this priority:

  • Invest in recruitment utilising the full range of potential activity and interventions across health and social care in order to protect and maintain high quality services, including international and domestic social care marketing and recruitment campaigns.
  • In support of retention and recruitment of the social care workforce, we will work with partners to ensure system readiness for the implementation of the commitment to enable a minimum rate of £12 per hour for those providing direct care in commissioned services from April 2024. While this commitment may not address immediate workforce pressures, it seeks to recognise the valuable efforts of our social care workforce during extremely challenging circumstances.
  • We have also established a joint social services and social care taskforce, co-chaired by the Scottish Government and COSLA, supporting delivery and acceleration of workforce improvement activity across the social care and social work workforces.
  • Have confirmed contingency plans in place to cover NHS staff disruption to manage the impacts, ensuring staff are fully aware of plans.
  • Invest in local, third and independent sector organisations to support care at home teams and the wellbeing for those who provide practical support to people who are ready for discharge, and across the wider community.
  • Raise staff awareness of digital tools available to staff that can increase capacity such as use of Near Me, use of M365 platform to safely and easily communicate, collaborate and share information, the technology hubs that are located throughout Scotland, and maximising the use of telecare devices.
  • Continue to explore how volunteers can provide support in discharge and consider appropriate use of established local and national volunteer partnerships.
  • Ensure people who provide unpaid care are supported in their caring roles and supported to look after their own health and wellbeing. Last winter we published the National Carers Strategy which set out the actions underway to ensure carers are supported fully in a joined up and cohesive way. It brings together existing initiatives and new approaches, and proposes new and better ways to support carers.
  • Continue to support Boards and HSCPs to work with students and with retirees who may wish to return to work on a part-time basis to build short-term capacity as required.
  • Support all health and social care staff appropriately in accessing the range of available local and national staff wellbeing resources and raise awareness of the mental health and wellbeing resources available on the Mind to Mind website.



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