Health and Care Targets Review

New systems for improving quality of health and social care.

Health and care targets should better reflect the overall quality of care people receive and help drive improvements in public health across the whole population, according to Health Secretary Shona Robison.

The comments follow publication of Professor Sir Harry Burns’ report into the use of targets and indicators in Scotland.

The Health Secretary confirmed that current targets, such as for cancer treatment, A&E, and the Treatment Time Guarantee, will remain and be built upon – informed by the principles in Sir Harry’s report.

Further work will now be undertaken to determine the best ways to capture and report people’s wider experience of care to ensure that we’re focused on improving public health across the whole population.

Ms Robison said:

“Targets and indicators have an important role in giving people clarity on what to expect from health and social care services, and in monitoring performance across the country.

“But they can never be an end in themselves. To be clear, the targets will remain in place, but Sir Harry’s report is absolutely right that we must shift the emphasis to ensure we have a more sophisticated approach which helps drive improvements in health across the population.

“His comprehensive review and findings enable us to start the process of devising new methods to more deeply understand people experience whilst using health and social care services.

“Our ambition must be to not only improve the care of individuals needing treatment, but to utilise the information from improved systems to enhance the health of Scotland as a whole.”

Professor Sir Harry Burns, Director of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde’s International Public Policy Institute, said:

“Over the past few years, we have seen some aspects of health care and social care improve as a result of the use of indicators and targets. However, existing measurements often only tell a part of the story. If we really want to understand why some parts of our system appear to function better than others, we need to look across the whole journey of care, not just take a snapshot of isolated bits of it. Health is the product of a complex system and we should measure how we manage it appropriately.

“At present, much of our attention is given to how long people wait to get into hospital. If we are to improve health and wellbeing, we need a better understanding of what makes them ill enough to require hospital care in the first place and we also need to measure the outcome of that care.

“This report suggests that the next step on Scotland’s journeys to better health is using data to improve services, not simply judge them on the basis of inadequate information. Scotland has been a leader in using data to improve patient safety. Central to this process has been the involvement of front line staff in design and implementation of important improvements in care.

“I hope the recommendation that we extend this focus on improvement into new areas, involving those who have to deliver care, will produce a step change in the wellbeing of our community.”

COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Peter Johnston, said:  “We welcome Sir Harry’s report and believe that it provides the foundations for a new approach to developing and using targets and indicators across the health and social care system.  This is vital if we are to achieve the transformational change that is needed to place health and social care services on a sustainable footing into the future and ensure we are focused on the impact of services on people’s lives. 

“We look forward to working with Scottish Government and other partners to consider how we build on the principles set out in Sir Harry’s report and ensure we have a world-class measurement system which supports local partners to protect and improve the public’s health and wellbeing.”


A final copy of the report can be found at:

Further details on the remit of the work and who will take it forward will be announced in due course.


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