Winter pressures plan published

3rd October 2023

The 2023/24 Winter Preparedness Plan details a series of investments and initiatives, including:

  • Strengthening the Urgent and Emergency Care system to provide alternatives to Emergency Departments, including Urgent Care Centres/Urgent Streaming Services, Rapid Access Clinics and local Phone First services. These services operate alongside Trust Emergency Department services and existing minor injuries services.
  • £3.4m in funding provided to General Medical Services (GMS) and Out of Hours Services (OOH) to support GP practices increase their capacity in light of the anticipated increase in demand over the winter.
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service increasing the range and capacity of clinical expertise within Ambulance Emergency Control to help ensure cases are appropriately managed.
  • Enhanced hospital capacity – for example, an additional 48 beds have been opened in Antrim area hospital in 2023 while 45 beds opened for last winter in the Ulster hospital will continue to be funded. The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, in recognition of ongoing service pressures, has increased its bed capacity by 5, which will help during the winter period.
  • £4.3m provided to support GP practices across Northern Ireland to provide proactive support and care to those in nursing and residential care homes.
  • Rolling out the Pharmacy First Pilot Service for Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Women Aged 16-64 years. This will expand from the current pilot of 62 Community Pharmacies to the entire Pharmacy network of more than 500 Pharmacies across Northern Ireland, through an investment of £410,000. Over the winter period, it is estimated this will deliver 12,000 consultations, freeing up capacity in GP practices.
  • Allocating £265,000 to a new Pharmacy First Sore Throat ‘test and treat’ service, which is being piloted this winter. This will be delivered in 40 pharmacies.  It is estimated that around 8,000 consultations will be delivered this winter.
  • HSC Trusts will jointly establish a Regional Control System which will have responsibility for ensuring system wide co-ordination for managing pressures.
  • To make best use of available domiciliary care capacity, Trusts have been allocated recurrent funding of £697,000 to establish early review teams by October 2023.  These teams will be responsible for completing reassessments of need within two to eight weeks of hospital discharge, with the aim of releasing capacity back into system if the patient’s needs have reduced following return home.

For more information, visit Winter Preparedness Plan 2023/24 | Department of Health (