Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership - A fresh start

This publication sets out the First Minister’s vision for Scotland and the outcomes he and his government aim to achieve by 2026.

Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care

Michael Matheson MSP

Scotland's National Health Service is our most treasured public service, and my priority will be to ensure it is safe, effective and efficient, delivering the care that matters and that people value. We know the impact of the COVID pandemic was the greatest challenge our NHS has faced – and that recovery and reform is crucial, and this will be my top priority as highlighted as part of our three missions.

I will lead the recovery and reform of our NHS services, and I will ensure that health and social care services in our communities improve. I will develop a sustainable health and social care system that ensures people get the right care, at the right time, and in the right place.

I will work with my Cabinet colleagues to tackle inequality and reduce poverty, and focus on preventing ill health and reducing health inequalities. I am also committed to my portfolio playing its part in achieving our ambitions on climate and net zero, decarbonising the NHS Scotland estate where possible.

We will innovate digitally and put patients at the centre of decisions made about their care by embedding realistic and value-based medicine. We will have taken decisive action on the causes of poor health including our national mission on drugs.

Building on these commitments and progress delivered to date, by 2026 the care our people receive, their experience of the NHS and their health and wellbeing will have improved.

As the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, working in partnership with my Cabinet colleagues, I commit that by 2026 I will have:

  • Reduced NHS waiting times year on year.
  • Reduced drug deaths and supported the establishment of a safer drug consumption facility.
  • Delivered year on year reductions in waiting lists with new National Treatment Centres (NTCs) in NHS Highland, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Golden Jubilee and further NTCs in development.
  • Improved cancer outcomes through better prevention and diagnostics, including expanded Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services in Lanarkshire and Borders by June 2023.
  • Delivered improvements in workforce planning, attraction, training, employment and wellbeing, progressing towards a sustainable, skilled health and care workforce, with attractive career choices, where all are respected and valued for the work they do.
  • Improved outcomes for people in primary, community, and social care, through enhanced integrated multi-disciplinary teams, with better digital tools including access to personal health information.
  • Sustained our investment in general practice through the Primary Care Improvement Fund and invested more in practices servicing disadvantaged areas.
  • Sustained and improved equitable national access to NHS dentistry.
  • Delivered the National Care Service legislation, subject to the agreement of parliament, to tackle consistency of provision and improvements in health and social care to significantly reduce delayed discharges, in partnership with Local Government, to improve social care across Scotland.
  • Increased adult social care pay to help reduce the workforce challenges our care sector is facing.
  • Improved mental health and wellbeing support in a wide range of settings with reduced waiting times for Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and distress and ongoing implementation of our suicide prevention strategy.
  • Taken decisive preventative action to reduce alcohol harm, including reviewing minimum unit pricing, and ensured smoking rates remain on track to make Scotland tobacco-free by 2034.
  • Continued to increase physical activity through investment in sport and active travel.
  • Ensured the introduction of safe access zones for premises providing abortion services.


Email: pfg@gov.scot

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