At the end of May, I published ‘Remobilise, Recover, Redesign: The Framework for NHS Scotland’ to provide a clear and consistent basis upon which NHS health boards and their partners would begin to cautiously restart as many aspects of our NHS as possible, while maintaining capacity to respond effectively to the continuing presence of COVID-19. In addition, I established a Mobilisation Recovery Group to generate key expert, stakeholder and system-wide input into this important work.
Boards have responded in safely resuming a wide range of routine services paused in line with clinical priorities. To do this, many services have had to be re-designed including with an increased use of digital, and many services will not deliver the same volumes as pre-COVID-19 due to the need to implement necessary infection prevention and control measures.
I would like to acknowledge, up front, the scale of what has been planned and achieved in this first phase health and social care staff across the spectrum of services. Our staff were and are the lynchpin of our ongoing pandemic response and they have worked both tirelessly and magnificently in getting us to this point. I would also like to thank the wide range of stakeholder and delivery partners, who are members of the Mobilisation Recovery Group, for their input and advice in getting us to this point.
We are now moving into the next phase of the pandemic, and our response must, once again, adapt to the new circumstances. The winter season is fast approaching – always a busy time for health and care services – and this year, it comes with the added challenges of a resurgence in COVID-19 infection rates as well as the end of the EU transition period. Managing these risks together will be very challenging. It will require us to work together to deploy our collective resources in the most effective way given that these risks may not fall evenly across the country. We need to prepare for the possibility that some resumed services may have to be paused again should we need to create more capacity to deal with the COVID-19 resurgence or manage other winter pressures. We must also recognise that we cannot respond successfully to any of these challenges, if we do not work urgently alongside this plan to support the health, wellbeing and resilience of our staff, of whom we have asked so much already.
In this context, I have set the key priorities for the NHS and their delivery partners until April 2021 as follows:
- Minimising the impact of the acute pandemic phase through a more extensive flu vaccination programme and prepare for a potential COVID-19 vaccine;
- Suppressing the virus through sustainable precision public health measures such as Test and Protect, Surveillance and Response;
- Keeping people alive and well through provision of essential health and social care services, including those that promote physical and mental wellbeing.
The Winter Preparedness Plan for NHS Scotland – 2020/21 sets out how we will work collectively to respond to these unprecedented challenges. The Plan should be read alongside the Adult Social Care Winter Plan.
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