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.

Essential Services – Emergency Care

The continued access to urgent and emergency services will continue to be a priority in our health service, as they have been since the introduction of the lockdown measures, and we will continue to encourage the public to use these services as and when needed.


  • Robust winter plans in place for all health boards covering all services and delivering a high level of preparedness.
  • Make available approximately 3000 repurposed acute beds, including ICU, CPAP (a type of non-invasive ventilation) ready and normal acute beds to address COVID-19 resurgence. Delivery of this figure may be affected by other winter-related pressures, such as increasing emergency attendances, staff absences and enhanced infection control requirements.
  • Urgent and emergency mental health provision given parity with services providing physical health care.
  • Maintain mental health service provision and build on the learning from this period to deliver a set of mental health services which are stronger and better.
  • Primary Care plans are in place to maintain 24/7 access to urgent care.

How We Will Deliver This

  • Annual assurance process on winter planning undertaken and provision of support to health boards via national workshops. Winter response and monitoring arrangements in place by end of October via the Winter Planning and Response Group.
  • Repurpose approximately 3000 acute beds within the NHS for covid-19 patients, excluding the NHS Louisa Jordan, subject to wider winter pressures. Included within this are the ability to double their ICU capacity to 360 within one week, treble capacity to 560 in two weeks and, if required, extend this to over 700, subject to the availability of staff and supplies. These figures are subject to change as we continue to work closely with NHS boards to ensure that their mobilisation and winter plans remain as robust as possible.
  • A tailored programme of enhanced improvement support for individual boards which require it and engagement with all NHS boards on a programme of national support on cross cutting issues will be commenced. We will also focus on supporting all NHS boards to respond effectively to the anticipated increase in demand in the months ahead.
  • We will continue to work with NHS boards and other partners to embed, sustain, and develop the Mental Health Assessment Centres established during lockdown. This work will be integrated into our broader approach to improving access to unscheduled care, and our response to distress.
  • NSS National Procurement will secure and maintain at least four months’ supply, based on the current average usage, of all the key PPE commodities in its stock by end of October.
  • NHS24 will continue to manage COVID-19 patients, and Covid Hubs and assessment centres will continue to provide a dedicated pathway for patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms consistent with the case definition.


Email: Winter_Planning_Team_Mailbox@gov.scot

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