The Scottish Government have published an NHS Winter Preparedness Plan outlining steps to ensure a resilient and safe health care system.

With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continuing to rise, £1.1 billion has already been allocated to NHS Health Boards and Integration Authorities to meet the costs of responding to the pandemic. An additional £37 million has been announced to support services cope with the virus, vaccinations and Test and Protect and the delivery of normal winter illnesses and weather. NHS Scotland will remain in a state of emergency over winter due to these continued pressures.

To complement the NHS Winter Preparedness Plan, a comprehensive Adult Social Care Winter plan will be published in early November. This will focus on delivering maximum protection for people who use social care support in residential and community settings and in their own homes, and for those who provide that care, including unpaid carers.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament in response to the Health Secretary’s statement on the Winter Preparedness Plan, Ruth Maguire MSP asked what support would be offered to primary and community care services.

The SNP MSP said: “Winter months can place additional pressures on our primary and community care services. Can I ask how health boards are working to ensure that my constituents are able to access these services closer to home throughout the winter period?”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We need to have as much focus on primary and community care as we do in acute care. “That includes making best use of the entirety of our primary and community care practitioners, so not simply the GP but practice nurses, allied health professionals and so on. Some of which is picked up in the plans that we have published, so that we direct people to the right care in the right place.

“Due to the continued dedication of health and social care staff, and support from the public, NHS Scotland has not been overwhelmed at any point during the pandemic. Our over-riding priority is to ensure the this continues to be the case, not only to save lives and treat COVID-19 patients but to make sure we can continue to deliver healthcare to those who need it.

“I am absolutely determined that we will do everything in our power to be ready for these challenges. We have learnt a lot from the first wave of the pandemic and we are better prepared. We must also recognise that we cannot respond successfully to any of these challenges, if we do not work to support the health, wellbeing and resilience of our staff, of whom we have asked so much already.“

Providing further comment, Ms Maguire said: “Throughout this public health crisis, the dedication and professionalism of NHS Ayrshire and Arran staff has been exemplary.

“We have been fortunate enough that our health services have not been overwhelmed due to the coronavirus and this plan to help health boards respond to extra pressures in the winter will hopefully help this to remain the case.”

The NHS Winter Preparedness Plan is available online.

Ruth’s question to the Health Secretary can be viewed below: