Health and social care: winter resilience overview 2022 to 2023

Sets out the range of actions we are taking to support our health and social sector throughout the winter period.

Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

Today, I am setting out the actions this government is taking to support winter resilience across our health and care system, and publishing the annual progress update on the NHS Recovery Plan 2021-2026. There is no recovery without resilience, nor resilience without recovery; and, given the ongoing and consistent nature of the pressure and demand facing our system, it is important to view our response through that lens.

The impact of the pandemic on our health and social care system is ongoing, and whilst our everyday lives may feel more normal, the cumulative effect on our staff, and the nature of pent-up demand mean that our services have been, and continue to be, under substantial pressure. That is why winter and surge planning is now a continuous and integral part of our work, with work on surge planning and delivery taken forward in partnership to ensure we maintain organisational resilience with a whole system approach.

Since last winter, we have been sharing and implementing best practice to deliver system improvements and build capability across NHS Boards, including the development of national level contingency options for winter 2022-23. This means we can actively monitor and evaluate strategic risks and system pressures to allow timely national-level decision making that is closely coordinated with Health Boards and Social Care partners across Scotland.

Given the scale of the escalating Cost Crisis, combined with the continued uncertainty posed by Covid-19, and a possible resurgence of Flu, this winter will be even more challenging. We are almost certain our services will be impacted by further waves of Covid-19, and another variant could increase demand and exacerbate an already pressured system which will be responding to the usual slips, trips, and falls associated with the winter period.

Make no mistake: the Cost Crisis is a Public Health crisis and we must, and will, do everything in our power to support people through the difficult months ahead. Early commentary on the Cost Crisis suggests that over half (59%) of all UK adults are experiencing negative mental health impacts as a result of the ongoing crisis, and that anxiety and depression symptoms in particular appear to be growing amongst the UK population, leading to poor sleep, detriments in everyday functioning and reduced life satisfaction. Those already experiencing financial strain, such as single parent families and individuals reliant on our social security system, are likely to be hardest hit by the mental health consequences of the rising cost of living, with many describing detriments to their wellbeing and quality of life as a consequence of increased or anticipated economic strain.

In this context, I have agreed a joint set of priorities with CoSLA, underpinned by £600 million of investment, designed to put people at the heart of what we do, and to guide and focus our collective efforts in preparing for winter:

  • Where clinically appropriate, ensure people receive care at home, or as close to home as possible – promoting messaging that supports access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
  • Focus on expanding our workforce over the course of the winter, through recruitment, retention and wellbeing of our health and social care workforce, all with the aim of expanding and supporting our workforce over the course of the Winter period.
  • Support the delivery of health and social care services that are as safe as possible throughout the autumn/winter period, including delivery of a winter vaccination programme for Covid-19 and Flu.
  • Maximising capacity to meet demand and maintaining integrated health and social care services throughout autumn and winter.
  • Protect planned care with a focus on continuing to reduce long waits.
  • Prioritise care for the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Ensure people who provide unpaid care are supported in their caring roles, recognising the value of unpaid care in alleviating pressure across health and social care.
  • Work in partnership across health and social care, and where necessary, with other partners, to deliver this Plan.

These priorities are supported by a wider SG package of over £3 billion investment to mitigate the impact of the Cost Crisis.

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care



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