NHS Scotland - winter preparedness plan: 2020 to 2021

The Winter Preparedness Plan sets out, at a high level, the broad context and priorities for the NHS in Scotland until March 2021.

Delivering Our Response

The Winter Preparedness Plan adopts a flexible approach, building on new ways of working and retaining the agility and mutual support which we used to respond to the challenge of COVID-19 itself earlier in the year. We will continue to ensure the highest standards of quality of care by practising Realistic Medicine, ensuring that we share decisions with patients based on what matters to them and that we deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time. We continue to work closely with health boards to ensure they have robust plans in place to deal with a range of pressures on capacity, including COVID-19. This includes mutual aid arrangements between NHS boards to ensure there is enough capacity to deal with peak levels of demand. We will, once again, rely on the professionalism and dedication of our excellent staff working in health and social care to get us through these challenges.

Local Monitoring

During these challenging times, the NHS will remain on an emergency footing. To ensure that a flexible and responsive approach is in place to optimise available capacity, we will continue to use local and national frameworks in our decision making. This includes a national decision making framework to ensure a consistent approach to the prioritisation for planned and unplanned care in local areas, any actions taken to direct capacity to accommodate other COVID or winter pressures, and activity to mitigate the impact in local areas, should services need to be suspended for any length of time. Our health boards and social care organisations will ensure that, operating within national frameworks, they monitor what is happening and take local actions where they are needed.

National Oversight

We know that the impact of COVID-19 is unlikely to fall evenly, and the impact felt harder in some parts of the country than others. This, alongside other winter risks identified (e.g. end of the EU transition period, Seasonal Influenza and extreme weather), means our winter resilience will be essential during this period. We will need a strong collective response built upon strong mutual aid arrangements and support.

To support these existing frameworks, the Scottish Government has established a Winter Planning and Response Group to work with boards, Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) and other delivery partners to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

The Group will use all available data and intelligence to identify emerging issues and pressures associated with the winter period. We will draw upon relevant experts who will advise where action is required, whether than action needs to be taken at a local or national level and what that action should be. All activity will be undertaken within a national framework. Throughout the winter period, we will seek to engage with delivery partners and stakeholders via the Mobilisation Recovery Group.

The Winter Planning and Response Group will be in place from October and will report to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport.


Email: Winter_Planning_Team_Mailbox@gov.scot

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