The HSE has today (Thursday, 14th November) published the Winter Plan 2019/20

During winter, hospitals, and in particular their Emergency Departments, are under pressure due to increased demand from the public.  Higher rates of respiratory viruses circulate at this time including seasonal influenza, norovirus (known as the winter vomiting bug) and healthcare associated infections. The prolonged holiday period and severe winter weather, when it occurs, also create additional pressures on services.

This plan, which is supported by the allocation of an additional €26m to year end, seeks to support improved patient care in hospitals and community healthcare organisations and prioritises;

  • Helping patients to avoid hospital admission
  • Providing care for patients in the community 
  • Minimising the length of time patients need to stay in hospital
  • Providing improved access to diagnostics
  • Supporting the transfer of care of older patients from acute hospitals to the community as quickly as possible.

Speaking today, Anne O Connor, HSE Chief Operations Officer said;

“We are focused this winter on ensuring that patients are provided with the appropriate care to meet their needs as quickly as possible. Building on the lessons learned from last winter, we will have a number of initiatives with a particular focus on the timely discharge of patients from hospital to appropriate care in the community including home care, step-down/transitional care or long term care.

All our Hospital Groups and Community Health Organisations have joint Winter Plans in place to prepare for and to manage service pressures in their areas this winter, which we have been planning for since July.”

Acute hospitals are continuing to see a year on year increase in the number of patients requiring treatment and care. By the end of October 1.1 million patients had attended our 29 Emergency Departments, 3% more than at the same time last year.

Almost 292,000 were patients admitted to hospital for further treatment and care. The average weekly number of patients waiting in hospitals for a transfer of care is 674, a 20% increase compared to last year. This significantly impacts hospitals capacity to admit new patients and therefore waiting times in Emergency Departments have been longer than we would wish.

While last year we focused on nine key hospital sites, this year’s plan is extended to cover the entire country. Nine Winter Action Teams have been established and will focus on delivering appropriate care, in the right setting, and at the right time to patients during the winter months.

Speaking today Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Advisor Acute Hospitals said;  

“A significant number of patients attend our EDs with a flare up / exacerbation of their chronic illness due to incorrect medicine use, or incorrect use of devices such as inhalers and nebulisers. I would encourage all of these patients living with a chronic condition such as asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart conditions to take some time now to check with their pharmacist and /or GP to ensure they know their medicines and devices and are taking them and using them correctly. Hand-washing is also vitally important to prevent the spread of viruses and infection.

To date 50% of our population with chronic disease have received their winter vaccinations. Whilst this is ahead of where we were last year, I would encourage the remaining half to get their ‘flu vaccine and give themselves the best opportunity to stay well.”

The Winter Plan 2019/20 is available on For further information see