Weekly Poll – Winter Planning 2023/2024

Each week Disability Equality Scotland sends out a poll question to our members and for the week beginning 12 June 2023, we asked a question about winter planning 2023/2024. Any identifying information within respondents’ comments has been removed. Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect the policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results– 39 respondents

Question. Do you think government priorities were successful in supporting winter resilience across health and care systems last year?

  • Yes – 13%
  • No – 87%


We have provided verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Waiting Times

The majority of Disability Equality Scotland members raised concerns about the effectiveness of last year’s winter preparedness plan and the eight priorities to support winter resilience across health and care systems. There was recognition of the ongoing pressure on services, the backlog of care and workforce shortages, resulting in long waiting times.

“The system needs a complete overhaul. I truly believe the hospital capacity is where it is because people are waiting far too long to start/restart their care programs, and this is taking up hospital beds for weeks/months at a time.”

“The priorities sound good but delivery is woefully inadequate, 68 weeks waiting for a cataract operation, same for a knee replacement, 8 hours waiting in A&E ward for a bed.”

“It is still almost impossible to get face to face GP appointments. Hospital wait times are horrendous. I have personally gone past the time limit for surgery 3 times now and still no sign of an appointment. It is still an appalling wait for an ambulance.”

One respondent noted that despite the pressures on the NHS, they received high quality care from staff this winter.

“I was in hospital over winter and although very busy was treated very well. Busy or not, a nurse attended me even through the night and got sent home to recover at home. Although I was not very well and felt down, I never felt left alone. As male and 86 years old I was very surprised to find that as I said very busy and understaffed, I got great treatment.”

Social Care

Priority Six states that care will be prioritised for groups who need it the most. Disability Equality Scotland members reflected on this priority and the challenges encountered in receiving appropriate care at home.

“People are not being offered care at home; their wishes are being ignored by those who have the power, based mainly on finances, rather than need-satisfaction or the right to have their human rights respected and upheld. Care is not being prioritised for the most vulnerable of our communities – they are being treated badly simply because they are the least able to complain or fight against it – because of their vulnerability.”

“Whilst working as a paid support worker in December 2022, I became aware of an elderly relative of my client in need of support and care. Both men did not have adequate heating and no hot water. I referred both to Social Work in December, January, and March but no resources were available. There will be others in similar circumstances who are slipping through the net. Who will be sitting without proper heating or running water and most probably, due to their age or disability, lack the means to seek help.”

Unpaid Care

Priority Seven of the winter preparedness plan is to ensure people who provide unpaid care are supported in their caring roles to help alleviate pressure across health and social care. There was a number of respondents who shared concerns on the lack of support that was made available for unpaid carers. It was noted that due to the pressure on health and care services, this meant that in some instances, family and friends are taking on caring responsibilities.

“People who provide unpaid care, and this includes disabled people, are the backbone of society and completely unrecognised, or supported, by the Scottish Government. Their health is suffering because of this, and that of those they love and care for.”

“My family and I have not seen any of these policies in place. As carers, time and again we are left to pick up the slack and when you do ask for help, you are often made to jump the hoops only to be denied because of one reason or another. Whether things will start to improve as time goes on, pass.”

“Both my parents need a lot of care, especially my mum including district nurse’s visits and more and more responsibilities are being left to my sister instead.”

“Unpaid carers are not treated as valued, and support is at best tokenistic, working 24/7filling all care gaps on the best that your care assessment (if completed and if you have jumped hoops to meet eligibility criteria) allocates £500max for “support” is just insulting. Partnership means equality and that’s not apparent between health and social care so disabled people and unpaid carers have no chance. Warm words of a page are not any use to keep safe, warm and well.”

One respondent stated that there is a lack of a joined-up approach to make it clear on what support is available for unpaid carers.

“My unpaid carer was only connected with connecting carers after 3 years of caring for me because social work didn’t explain support options for him. Nobody seems to communicate, nobody seems to prioritise, nobody seems to connect others with partner organisations or other services that could improve my quality of life.”

Staff Recruitment

Priority Two focuses on the recruitment, retention and wellbeing of the health and social care workforce. There was overwhelming consensus from Disability Equality Scotland members that this priority has not been met and there needs to be significant investment in staff through increase in pay and better working conditions.

“There are still less staff, either in a hospital setting or in other care settings, like occupational settings.”

“There aren’t the staff numbers required to implement the government’s priorities. Often unable to get homecare due to personnel shortages. Other than poor pay, there simply aren’t the numbers of people needed.”

“Social care and home care services have been in crisis for some time and consistently fail to deliver due to lack of personnel. Have also been on waiting list for PA for considerable time as no one is available.”

“Recruitment and retention are major issues, advertising a 6 month contract will not attract someone to move their spouse/partner and family to another part of the country for a 6 month contract.”

“There’s not enough money, not enough nurses, not enough carers. There are more people living longer with complicated illness.”

“There are not enough health and social care workers to fully commit to what is required of our care services.”

“Must ensure proper pay levels for care staff. A recruitment drive is also needed.”

Measuring Outcomes

Some respondents highlighted that there must be a transparent process in place to measure the success of the priorities.

“When setting goals, one of the most important things is to ensure that things are measurable, if this was done then the government should be able to demonstrate this. I haven’t seen anything about this.”

“This is a list which covers a lot of key areas, but what processes are in place to measure how far each priority has been met? If this does exist, then we need more information about it in the public domain.”


When reflecting on the effectiveness of last year’s winter preparedness plan, Disability Equality Scotland members raised a number of concerns. It was noted that long waiting times in the NHS are resulting in delays to receiving treatment. It was also highlighted that there is a lack of support in place for social care services. In addition, unpaid carers are not receiving adequate support, meaning that family and friends are taking on more caring responsibilities. There was consensus amongst respondents that there must be a recruitment drive, as well as investment in better pay and conditions for staff to help alleviate pressures on health and social care services.