Digital to support care at home and consistent messaging in Scotland’s new winter preparedness plan

The Scottish Government has published this year’s winter preparedness plan for health and social care, with a number of priorities set out around helping people receive care from home; ensuring consistent messaging for the public and staff; recruitment, retention and wellbeing; maximising capacity and maintaining integrated services; supporting safe delivery of care; working in partnership; and protecting planned care.

The role of digital is emphasised in the first priority, to ensure that people receive care at home or as close to home as possible, where clinically appropriate. Highlighting the importance of ensuring safe and person-centred care through an integrated and coordinated approach, the strategy states: “The use of telecare and digital technology to detect and alert health professionals when a person is needing support is a crucial tool, as is the ability to maximise existing community and third sector supports.” Through the plan, the Scottish government commits to maximising the use of digital tools such as video consultation software and telecare to improve systems and widen access. A key action under this priority is to increase use of Flow Navigation Centres to reduce avoidable A&E visits, optimising use of Call Before you Convey and Near Me video consultations, along with continuing to optimise the roll-out of Near Me for social work and out-of-hours services. In addition, the Scottish government pledges to “develop a data-based understanding of people who return to hospital upon discharge with a care package”.

Under the second priority, around ensuring consistent messaging to the public and staff, the strategy shares a commitment to ensure that the public are aware of key sources of information to support them with their care needs, with digital options including, the NHS 24 online app, Care Information Scotland or local council websites, along with the telephone as an option. Resources are also to be developed for stakeholders to share online through their own channels, and another action is to raise awareness nationally of the technology hubs located throughout Scotland “where people accessing and delivering services can go to see technology in a home setting.”

On priority three, focusing on recruitment, retention and wellbeing of the workforce, the Scottish government pledges to raise staff awareness of digital tools and their potential to increase capacity along with the technology hubs, and to maximise use of telecare devices.

Moving onto priority four, to maximise capacity to meet demand and maintain integrated services throughout autumn and winter, the strategy highlights plans to improve reporting and performance dashboards to support visibility of capacity in social care, and to embed use of new dashboards to support benchmarking between systems along with sharing of best practice.

Under the fifth priority – to support safe delivery of services – the strategy states: “Improved demand and capacity forecasting around COVID 19, flu and underlying winter pressure scenarios is informing thinking and scenario planning to help national and local partners better understand and respond to the challenges being experienced. These scenarios will be adjusted to incorporate emerging data and evidence throughout the winter.” As such, one of the actions laid out in the strategy is to work with boards and wider partners to use data and local knowledge to target outreach work and reduce barriers to vaccinations among under-served communities, and where uptake is lowest.

Finally, priority seven, to protect planned care, includes plans to encourage optimisation of digital solutions and standardise the pre-operative assessment to reduce the need for unnecessary appointments and cancellations.

Read the winter preparedness plan in full here.

In the summer, we covered the digital health and care strategy delivery plan from the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which set out core aims to give citizens better control over and access to their data, along with helping staff to record and share information, and providing researchers and innovators with access to data. Find out more here.

Earlier in the year, we reported on Scotland’s cancer strategy, in which digital is highlighted for its role in supporting access and enabling patients to receive support in a way which works best for them.