Health and social care: national workforce strategy

Sets out our vision for the health and social care workforce. Supports our tripartite ambition of recovery, growth and transformation of our workforce and the actions we will take to achieve our vision and ambition.


Our NHS, Social Care and Social Work staff have been remarkable throughout the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are forever grateful for their continued courage, commitment and professionalism.

Our workforce is at the heart of delivering Health and Social Care services to the people of Scotland. Over 400,000 skilled and compassionate people work in many different roles and settings, in an integrated way. As the largest workforce in Scotland, they reach into every aspect of life and every community in Scotland. As national and local governments working together, we see and value this every day.

We acknowledge the significant pressures that the workforce has faced and that sustained actions are required from planning for and attracting into the workforce through to support and development of our workforce, supporting and delivering Recovery, Growth and Transformation of our workforce. This is critical to Scotland's recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic, within the wider context of addressing inequalities and making a continued shift to early intervention and prevention.

Moving into the implementation phase of this Strategy, we will continue working with partners to support and inform its delivery.

This Workforce Strategy sets out a national framework to achieve our vision of a sustainable, skilled workforce with attractive career choices where all are respected and valued for the work they do.

We have a proud track record in investing in our people, with record staffing levels in the NHS and ten consecutive years of growth. We now have over 28, 700 more people working in our NHS than in 2006. In Social Care, our workforce has increased by over 18,300 since 2008. We also recognise and value the incredible efforts of those who work so hard to care for us in all aspects of our Health and Social Care system.

Terms and conditions of employment are also of paramount importance. Building on solid progress already made in this area, we continue to work towards achieving Fair Work across both Health and Social Care.

Our Health and Social Care system continues to undergo rapid change, impacted not just by demographic realities and the COVID-19 pandemic but the opportunities brought by new technology, data and analytical services, including innovative ways of working. We will learn from this experience and work with key partners, to ensure that we are delivering responsive high quality care that addresses people's needs.

We will continue to provide a range of wellbeing support for our workers. We must care for them as they have cared for others.

The Scottish Government published the NHS Recovery Plan in August 2021 which set out key ambitions and actions to be developed and delivered over the next five years to address the backlog in care and meet healthcare needs for people across Scotland.

This is part of a wider whole system response, including Social Care and support from within communities. The Independent Review of Adult Social Care (the Feeley review) previously set out ambitions for Social Care that would increasingly reflect the lived experience and person-centred approaches, as part of a wider system change. The COVID Recovery Strategy published in October, emphasises tackling inequalities through national and local leadership. These ambitions underpin our Workforce Strategy.

A package of Winter Measures was published in October, including a range of immediate measures to increase workforce and capacity across Health and Social Care. Rapid changes in virus transmissibility have since highlighted that system pressures can also change quickly.

Strong partnership working over the winter has again demonstrated our shared commitment to respond to the public health emergency, with workers, carers and volunteers supporting our communities in challenging times.

Our Workforce Strategy also contributes to wider national outcomes. Health and Social Care providers have an important role in progressing key national and local agendas, such as Fair Work, tackling Child Poverty and Net Zero, by providing strong leadership. This includes driving down carbon emissions in Health and Social Care, ensuring we take care of the wellbeing of our staff, increasing local employment and skills development, and improving health and wellbeing in communities most at risk of poverty.

Key to growing and transforming our workforce is a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. This is fundamental to providing services that will need to adapt to deliver continually improving, high quality and compassionate care.

Organisational cultures must be nurtured in parallel with transformation in systems, processes and structures, and a commitment to integrated working. Strong and effective leadership is essential to this, at all levels of the Health & Care system.

We must also support and nurture our workforce, ensuring that as employers we offer roles and development opportunities that staff find rewarding and fulfilling.

Our workforce should experience wellbeing support, meaningful work and attractive terms and conditions, which reflect modern society; all helping to deliver the high quality care that citizens expect.

Finally, on behalf of both spheres of government, we would like to reiterate our thanks to everyone across Health and Social Care who has worked tirelessly, embraced challenges and gone the extra mile throughout the pandemic, and who continue to do so. We will continue to work with and listen to them and their representatives in implementing this Strategy, to deliver the care that the people of Scotland deserve.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

Humza Yousaf

COSLA Health and Social Care Spokesperson

Councillor Stuart Currie



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