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Scotland's integrated health and social care workforce plan

There has for some time now been a growing recognition of the importance of closer working arrangements between health and social care staff. An understanding of each other’s roles and skills is imperative to any strategy that envisages a treatment model for the NHS and care provision met by community care services. If such a strategy is to work, then overtime, domiciliary care services will be required to undertake a wider range of complex care tasks that are currently carried out in hospital settings. 

It was therefore good to hear that the Scottish government has announced the UK’s first integrated health and social care workforce plan. Created in partnership with COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), the plan sets out how health and social care services will meet growing demand and ensure there are enough staff with the right skills across both services.

One specific aim for this Plan, and its supporting guidance, is to equip planners and employers in local authorities, the NHS, the third sector, and the independent sector, with the planning resources they need to help build sustainable services. To do this to the best of their abilities, all sectors need better coordinated and morecomprehensive workforce intelligence and insight, as well as the capacity to undertake appropriate workforce planning.

First integrated health and social care workforce plan

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This is the UK’s first integrated health and social care workforce plan and it will be invaluable in helping us to anticipate and respond to the changing and growing demand faced by our health and social care services.

“We have record numbers working across our health and social care services – with NHS staffing levels up 11.3% since 2006 and the social care workforce at its highest level since reports began.

The Plan represents an important milestone because it is tackling these issues at a national level and in an integrated context for the first time. It will support employers and workforce planners to address the complex interactions between demand and supply across all parts of the health and social care system. It reinforces that having a skilled, supported and sustainable workforce remains absolutely critical to delivering safe, effective and person centred care - at the right time and in the right place - wherever in Scotland it is being provided.


As people's health and social care needs change, we are seeing a renewed focus on prevention and wellbeing, on early intervention and in supported self-management. This work will require us collectively to:

  1. embed and sustain health and social care integration;

  2. transform mental health services;

  3. improve access to services;

  4. respond to innovations and advances in treatment and care, as well as how people experience services.

Key commitments of the plan include:

  1. Support the shift in balance of care into community settings, by delivering more care at home and reducing rates of admission to acute hospital services. 

  2. Provide informal and formal skills development for workforce planners across health and social care employers.

  3. Design and oversee work to obtain a national picture of workforce planning capacity, methodology and capability in Local Authorities / Health and Social Care Partnerships for planning social care services. We will respond by considering how best to support effective collaborative and strategic workforce planning in light of the findings.

  4. Over the next 12 months, Scottish Government and COSLA will work with the Scottish University and College sectors to examine, develop and build a workforce planning educational qualification - building a strategic approach to developing workforce planning education and skills for the health and social care workforce.

  5. Provide additional support in 2019/21 to the third and independent social care sectors to enable their contributions to the developments in workforce planning to be supported through this workforce plan.

Royal College of Nursing comments

The plan recognises the importance of getting the workforce right and presents an overview of the integrated workforce needed to support Scotland’s communities.

However, the plan is light on the detail behind how the projected workforce growth was established and the level of financial commitment required to deliver this.


Scotland’s integrated health and social care workforce plan is a step in the right direction in that it recognises the need to shift the balance of care provision from hospitals to community care settings. Effective workforce planning is essential to the delivery of care in the right place. Such a strategy would reduce pressures on A & E, reduce bed blocking and ensure people received care where they say they want it. That is in their own homes.

It is hard to argue with the comments of the RCN as plan does appear to be light on the detail behind how the projected workforce growth was established, and the level of financial commitment required to deliver it.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director  Bettal Quality Consultancy

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