- 21 Jun 2017
It's good to be with you again this year. This is an event that I always look forward to speaking at.
I want to start with a thank you. A thank you to each and every one of you who is in the hall here today, but also the tens of thousands of health and care staff who are working day in and day out in our health and care services. Whether you're a chief executive, an admin worker, a physio, a nurse or a doctor, I know the efforts that you put in day in and day out. I want to not only thank you for that, but also say that I recognise the goodwill and the extra mile that people go in their day-to-day jobs. I recognise that, and I assure you that goodwill is not something I will ever take for granted.
Despite these challenging times, we have a hugely important vision for our health and care services. But before I talk about that, I want to recognise some recent events which have impacted on our colleagues working in other parts of these islands.
When I, like you, saw images of events in Manchester and London, it brought home to me some of the extraordinary work that our colleagues, wherever they're working, whether it's on these islands or elsewhere, do in very challenging circumstances, and the events they have to deal with. Whether they're doctors and nurses receiving causalities from some of these horrific events, or indeed people who were off-duty responding and undertaking some very selfless acts. So, in solidarity, I want to pay a huge tribute to each and every one of our emergency services – our doctors, our nurses, our firefighters, our police – everyone who has been involved in responding to these hugely significant and terrible events across these islands.
When we look at the vision we have for our health and care services – the resilience, the need for us to understand and to move forward to deliver those changes in spite of the challenges we have – it's that vision that helps us to look to the future and what we want our services to look like; to ensure that everyone, our friends and our families can live longer and healthier lives at home.
We want a health and care system that works together well and is integrated, and one that is founded on the principles of anticipating people's health needs and providing the best standards of quality and safety, and one that always puts people at the centre of decisions about their care.
But standing here now, what I most want to talk to you about is not our words as a government – but the words of other people.
This morning, Eddie Obeng has talked eloquently about his experiences of how we can work differently. There is much from Eddie's experience we can explore within the NHS.
Yesterday, you'll have heard from Jonny Benjamin. He will have spoken to you about his own personal experiences with mental health services, and the continuing importance of those services. Jonny's words were powerful.
And while I'm proud of the action we've taken as a government in publishing our mental health strategy in March and the investment we are putting into those services, it's the testament of people like Eddie and Jonny that stays with us and should always be a reminder about why we want to improve services. It's to make services better for the people who receive them. I absolutely recognise: yes progress has been made, but we have a lot more work to do.
And for those of you who were here yesterday afternoon, you'll have seen video clips of people talking about the kind of health service they want: older citizens, children and young people.
Their words were also powerful. Listening to those with a long memory of the health service, you can hear how much has changed over the years. I was particularly struck by the gentleman who recalls a time when you could be presented a receipt after you brought your baby home from hospital.
Indeed, my late mum used to talk about, when she was young, the family couldn't afford to go and see the family doctor. Thankfully, those times have changed for the better, but at its core the values of the family doctor being interested in their patients as people is something that I know none of us would want to change.
Then there were the voices of the children, and what they wanted from health services in future, such as the young girl who wanted a lever she can pull so a clinic can just pop up in her back garden. Imagine – every home with its own medical facility there at the touch of a switch! Fanciful, well yes of course. But at its core there's something there about the use of technology and how that is transforming health and care services – so that we can have people safe in their own homes with the use of technology, or avoiding people having to travel to hospital for an outpatient appointment. Things that perhaps are not as exciting as having a clinic in your garden, but nonetheless making a big impact on the lives of people for the better.
Listening to these people, I took away two things. First, we are still on a journey. The challenges our services face are significant. I don't underestimate what adapting to the new health and care demands of society will require of all of us. That's why we published our Health and Social Care Delivery Plan in December: to bring together all the major strands of reform that you and your partners have been involved in and transform our services. And it's why we are committed to increasing the pace of change.
Change, of course, is not new. The NHS in Scotland has continually evolved over the years. It's changed to accommodate new treatments, more advanced technologies and improvements in delivering services. Our health and social care system will always evolve to deal with society's challenges and find ways to provide ever more excellent care.
But the second thing I took away from that video is what doesn't change. The golden thread that runs through our services – the people. People who care. The everyday compassion and commitment of those working in health and care. The lifeblood of our services.
That's why we need to ensure that we continue to train to develop our people – and of course, our forthcoming National Workforce Plan, soon to be published, will set out how we will ensure that we have the people to continue to deliver our health and care services.
Of course we have other challenges. At the moment, very topical is the issue of Brexit. I want to send a very clear message from today's event: that no matter where you come from, you are valued in working in our health and care services and we want you to stay here.
Those values are also behind our commitment to investing in the development of leadership and talent throughout the NHS. To face the challenge before us, we need strong, responsive leadership at all levels and parts of our services. We have commissioned NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to develop and take forward a programme of new work that will better identify and support our emerging talent.
As the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary, our challenge hasn't really changed in all this time. We will always need to find new ways to design and deliver services that better meet the needs of our people. But we don't need to find new values. You brought those values here with you this morning, and I'm sure you'll leave with those values strengthened.
I want to finish with one last point. The theme of this year's event has been working differently across boundaries. It's a theme that says we can only bring about change by working together, by working with open minds, and by working across areas, services and professions. It reminds us that when we work together, we must do so fearlessly. This year's event has demonstrated how people are already doing this, and I believe it can inspire you to take that spirit back to your organisations, whether that's in the health service or in care services.
These events are really important in taking that little bit of time out to come together, and be inspired by the amazing work that's going on despite the challenges. When I go around Scotland it never ceases to amaze me how much good work is going on, how many people are going the extra mile and how innovative our services are in the way that they're changing and developing. That's down to your hard work and efforts in making those changes happen, and the reason you do that is you can see the benefit to the patients that you care for.
I'll end where I started and that's with a big heartfelt thank you for the work that you do, and you'll continue to do. It really matters.
Thank you very much.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House