NHS Recovery Plan: annual progress update

This publication provides an update on progress against the actions we are taking to address the backlog in care and meet ongoing healthcare needs for people across Scotland, as set out in the NHS Recovery Plan 2021-2026.


Our NHS Recovery Plan invests £1 billion of targeted funding over five years to increase NHS capacity, deliver reform, and ensure everyone has the treatment they need at the right time, in the right place, and as quickly as possible, all in aid of our recovery from the global pandemic, the biggest shock our NHS has faced in its 74 year existence.

This document is intended to provide an update on our NHS Recovery Plan, and demonstrates both significant progress, as well as our absolute commitment to our long term ambition to invest and reform our NHS.

However, we know that the NHS will not recover from impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in weeks or even months, it will take years – and we will always be clear and honest about the scale of the challenge we face. It is important to note that since the publication of the Recovery Plan there have been multiple waves of Covid-19, the accumulative impact of which are still being felt by our NHS and social care system.

This challenge is not only being felt, and will continue to be felt for some time, across the NHS and social care system, by the people working within it but those seeking to access care too.

Notwithstanding those challenges, and the frustrations felt during a time of recovery and change, we can report here a series of tangible improvements in our NHS and social care systems, the results of significant investment, targeted reform and dedicated innovation.

For example, we have seen a significant improvement in waits of longer than 2 years, with more than 70% of Health Boards having five or fewer patients waiting for that time.

We would like to thank all of our NHS staff for their phenomenal work to tackle these long waits, and for aiding our recovery during a time of significant challenge.

Indeed in the past year, our workforce has continued to deliver – with skill, dedication, and commitment – services in the face of both increased and pent-up demand, multiple waves of Covid-19 and the most difficult winter period yet experienced.

The Omicron variant led to inpatient numbers higher than we had ever seen before, and since then, our Health Boards have had to respond to waves on an almost quarterly basis.

We are under no illusions about the challenges facing the NHS and social care systems in the months ahead. We have been working with NHS Scotland Chief Executives, Directors of Planning, and Executive Leads for Resilience, to plan for the significant pressures we fully expect this winter to bring. We will also continue our regular engagement with staff side representatives and trade unions to ensure we do everything in our power to support the wellbeing of our workforce.

Our Winter Resilience Overview, published alongside this update, outlines our resilience plans in further detail.

This work to invest and reform in a recovering NHS, and build resilience for all that winter brings, takes place against an economy in turmoil. The unfolding and escalating Cost Crisis means that we have had to take difficult decisions on the allocation of our budget across the Scottish Government, including in Health and Social Care. With the increase in inflation alone, our Health Budget is worth around £650 million less than when it was set in December last year.

Unfortunately, our lack of fiscal levers, including borrowing powers, means that we have to choose just as much what not to do as what to do. Our public services have to operate within a fixed budget, so as part of the Emergency Budget Review we will look at how best to apply finite resources to support our NHS as it continues to face such stark challenges.

The Cost Crisis reminds us, in stark terms, that the society within which we live and work is subject to rapid and sometimes alarming change.

The NHS Recovery Plan is in place, and we are absolutely committed to it: but it is important too that we can adapt, update and refine our plans and our services as our national circumstances evolve.

Our health and social care services are cornerstones of modern Scotland. They are crucial to the functioning of our caring, resilient, and sustainable society. That is why this Recovery Plan is central to our Government’s work – because, as in all of the work we undertake, the needs of the public we care for are our first priority.


Email: healthplanningandsponsorship@gov.scot

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