Primary care sector: winter risks and contingency


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The intention of this article is to provide assistance and essential advice to help with preparations for coping with the winter months.

Winter can be idyllic and a set a beautiful scene, but in the primary care sector challenges might come your way from staff struggling with icy or slippery conditions on the roads, additional service users needs, to issues with the impact of a burst pipe at your business premises.

It is important to keep your business running as efficiently as possible, therefore spending time on winter and severe weather planning will enable the smooth running of your practice and help to avoid insurance claims that can be costly. The wellbeing of staff and service users is always at the forefront of employers concerns and contingency actions need to be planned ahead of what can be a challenging time of the year.


Extreme cold weather can causes a range of problems from flooding and burst pipes to a failure of utilities and all these can impact the ability to trade or work from your premises. Preventative measures can be taken. For instance, keep the heating on during freezing weather conditions, ensure pipes are fully lagged and insulated, undertake regular servicing of boilers and related equipment and deal with what can seem minor issues such as dripping taps.

  • Broker advice – Check you have suitable Business Interruption cover in place that will adequately cover should you need to make a claim. Speak with your Broker for guidance or advice.

Icy pavements and foot paths

Slips and trips are a large part of claims over the winter period, and you are expected to provide safety for your staff and visitors to your premises. It is recommended that you have a plan in place for gritting or laying salt in advance of severe weather and that you clear away any ice or snow as soon as you can. A few more things that could help you include having suitable signage to alert visitors to conditions, establishing access routes that are safe, and look to cordon problem areas and sign up for severe weather alerts.

  • Broker advice – Keep a note of the preventive actions taken to mitigate risk incidents as this will be beneficial in the event of a claim allegation.


Travel in winter can be challenging for employees to reach your practice. Driving is more hazardous during icy conditions, leading to more road congestion and increased journey times. What’s more the increased potential of illness over the winter months can add to the overall workload and in turn put your staff under increased pressure. Unwell staff are also a potential risk to your service users.

  • Broker advice – Suggestions to minimise risk include:
    1. Engage staff with health awareness schemes, such as local flu vaccination schemes and additional hygiene precautions to reduce the risk of spreading viruses
    2. Suggest staff keep additional clothing, food and a warm flask in their vehicle for all journeys
    3. Keep mobile phones fully charged if possible
    4. Make arrangements for certain staff to be able to work from home if needed

Service users

Extreme cold weather might affect the majority of your service users coming into your practice. However, vulnerable, disabled and older persons are more likely to experience issues so make sure that they are provided with additional support if needed.

  • Broker advice – Ensure staff are documenting all actions taken and advice given. It is important to have a contingency plan, that is communicated to all relevant parties, and that it is tested and reviewed at regular interval.

Practical advice, provided by the NHS[1], on keeping warm and well, that should be passed on to service users, includes:

  • Have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm.
  • Make sure to wrap up warm when going outside. You could try wearing multiple thinner layers so you can take a layer off if you get too warm.
  • Keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed.
  • Remember to get your heating system checked regularly by qualified professionals.
  • Have stocks of food and medicines so you do not need to go out during very cold weather.
  • Draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts.

Still unsure?

If you are not sure about something, speak to your Insurance Broker, who will be able to assist with suitable advice and steps to be taken in preparation for the winter months.

Howden’s Health & Care division specialise in providing tailored insurance solutions to Primary Care providers. Whether you are unsure of your current levels of insurance cover or protection, or would just like some friendly advice and guidance on mitigating risks over the winter, we are here to assist – whatever the weather.

[1] NHS. How to stay well in winter. November 2019. [Accessed October 2022]