Scottish Government
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NHS prepared for winter

NHSScotland has robust plans in place to cope with extra demand over the winter months, Chief Executive Kevin Woods said today.

Dr Woods said NHS boards were laying on extra staff and beds to deal with the expected increases in GP visits and hospital admissions in their areas.

Meanwhile, special NHS boards like NHS24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service, which cover the whole of Scotland, are prepared for the anticipated rise in calls, particularly over Christmas and New Year when many GP surgeries will shut for two four-day periods.

Dr Woods said:

"Winter always brings an increase in illnesses like colds and flu and the NHS makes careful plans to make sure it has the necessary resources in place to deal with the likely extra demand.

"We are targeting resources specifically to tackle winter-associated health issues. This includes £14 million for the annual flu vaccine drive and £30 million this year to tackle delayed discharge in hospitals.

"I'm also extremely encouraged that NHS boards across Scotland have robust plans in place, with extra beds, additional nursing and medical staff and 210 intensive care beds nationwide - more than at any previous time.

"Hospital staff will also be working hard to ensure Accident and Emergency patients are treated within our four-hour target time, which in September this year 98 per cent of attendees were.

"Of course, we can all take simple steps to make sure we're ready for winter and that's why NHSScotland is running high-profile advertising campaigns on TV, radio and print media this year to inform people of what they can do to protect themselves from illness."

Tim Davison, Chairman of the Emergency Access Delivery Team, said:

"While this is always a difficult time for the NHS, our comprehensive approach to planning will ensure we are best placed to continue to deliver excellent patient care and deal with whatever challenges come over the winter period."

John Turner, Chief Executive of NHS 24, said:

"We have been working very closely with local out-of-hours services, the Scottish Ambulance Service and Accident and Emergency services for several months, to ensure that out-of-hours care is available to people who need it over this time, and this will continue throughout the winter period.

"People can be reassured that should they need to call NHS 24 over the Christmas and New year period, they will receive the highest quality of care by trained and dedicated staff at our NHS 24 centres.

"We would also remind people that they have a huge range of quality self care advice at their fingertips at or by calling the NHS Helpline on 0800 22 44 88."

Scotland has received 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine this year. This will ensure that all priority groups, including those aged over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions, will receive their flu jabs. Practices across Scotland have now;received all of their flu vaccine supplies and 80,000 vaccines have already been ordered for our contingency supply.

NHS 24 is planning to receive in excess of 136,000 calls over the 21-day festive period from December 15, 2008 to January 4, 2009 inclusive, which is a 15 per cent increase over the comparable period last year. This can be compared against a total of 114,903 calls dealt with across the whole of September 2008.

In preparation for winter 2008-09, the number of intensive care or ITU beds in Scottish hospitals has increased by over 30 per cent on 1999 - taking the total to 210.

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