We are responsible for managing and allocating public money to NHSScotland. We support Ministers in accounting to the public and the Scottish Parliament and set the strategic direction for NHSScotland.

We work to ensure that healthcare standards are met.


Specifically we are:

We also: 


Quality strategy

We published our Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHSScotland in May 2010 which set the approach and shared focus for achieving the 2020 vision for health and social care.

This strategy identified the following priorities:

  • caring and compassionate staff and services
  • clear communication and explanation about conditions and treatment
  • effective collaboration between clinicians, patients and others
  • a clean and safe care environment
  • continuity of care
  • clinical excellence

We established Healthcare Improvement Scotland in 2011 to take forward our healthcare priorities – particularly those of the Quality Strategy and the 2020 Vision. Its functions include:

  • delivering improvement support
  • quality assurance (through inspections and reviews)
  • supporting the engagement of people and communities
  • providing evidence include advice, standards and guidelines

More information is on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.


In 2018-2019 the resource budget is £13.1 billion. This represents an increase of over £400 million from 2017-18 (3.4% uplift). As part of the budget approved by the Scottish Parliament, the 14 Territorial and 8 National Boards account for £10.9 billion of that spend, with the remainder administered directly by the Scottish Government. The NHS Board resource budget covers spending on operating costs such as pay, drugs and supplies. 

In addition to the Budgets allocated at the outset of the year to NHS Boards, £2.2 billion is managed centrally by our Health and Social Care Directorates. The majority of this is allocated to NHS Boards over the course of the year. This includes total funding of £1.5 billion for the four professional groups of independent sub-contractors - medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and optometry, and also £303 million to support investment in reform.

The capital budget is £351 million in 2018-2019 and funds investment in the NHS estate, equipment and maintenance. 


We published our health and social care delivery plan in December 2016. This set out the framework and actions needed to ensure that health and social care services are fit to meet requirements.

This was followed with a performance framework against which progress would be revised.

A report of an independent review of targets and indicators for health and social care was published in November 2017. This recommended that we move to a system of indicators and targets which allows tracking of improvements across a whole system of care.

Bills and legislation

Patient Safety Commissioner for Scotland

First Do No Harm: The Report of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review (the Cumberlege Review) was published in July 2020. The review examined how the healthcare system in England responds to reports about harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices, and made recommendations on how to respond to them more quickly and effectively in the future.

A key recommendation within the report was:

Recommendation 2: The appointment of a Patient Safety Commissioner who would be an independent public leader with a statutory responsibility. The Commissioner would champion the value of listening to patients and promoting users’ perspectives in seeking improvements to patient safety around the use of medicines and medical devices.

The Patient Safety Commissioner for Scotland Act 2023 establishes a parliamentary commissioner, independent of the NHS and government, who will:

  • advocate for systemic improvement in the safety of health care (which includes forensic medical examinations) in Scotland, and
  • promote the importance of the views of patients and other members of the public in relation to the safety of health care.

The Commissioner will listen to the concerns of patients and their families and will have powers to require health care bodies to provide information. They will be able to carry out investigations into health care safety issues, publish reports on those investigations and make recommendations to which named organisations are required to respond.

They will also produce a Patient Safety Charter which sets out what the Commissioner expects of health care providers in terms of standards and good practice in relation to patient safety, including how providers engage with patients and their families.

Further information on the development of this legislation can be found at on the Scottish Parliament website.

Patient rights

The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 aims to improve patients' experiences of using health services and to support people to become more involved in their health and health care.

The Act gives everyone the right to receive healthcare that:

  • considers their needs
  • considers what would most benefit their health and wellbeing
  • encourages them to take part in decisions about their health and wellbeing, and gives them the information and support to do so

It also gives patients a right to give feedback (both positive and negative) or comments, and raise concerns or complaints, about the care they have received. The Act also requires that health boards encourage, monitor and learn from the feedback and complaints they receive. 

The Act also establishes and provides access for patients and members of the public to the independent Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS) which provides information and helps raise awareness and understanding of their rights and responsibilities when using health services. 

The Schedule to the Act includes a set of healthcare principles that must be taken account of when providing services.

The Act provided for the introduction of:

Action to deliver the rights and principles should be proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances and should balance the rights of individual patients with the effects on the rights of other patients. It should also take into account resources available and the responsibility of the health board to use resources efficiently and effectively.

More information on the development of the Act is in our website archive.

Duty of candour

The organisational duty of candour provisions of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 (The Act) and The Duty of Candour Procedure (Scotland) Regulations 2018 set out the procedure that organisations providing health services, care services and social work services in Scotland are required by law to follow when there has been an unintended or unexpected incident that results in death or harm (or additional treatment is required to prevent injury that would result in death or harm).


Email: Central Enquiries Unit ceu@gov.scot

Telephone: 0300 244 4000

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