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Nursing in Scotland

It's an absolute pleasure to write for Nursing in Practice only a few months after taking office as Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport in Scotland. In my time in office I have been delighted to note the enthusiasm and professionalism of the NHS.

The dedication and commitment of NHS staff is greatly appreciated and makes a huge difference to how patients and their families experience the health service.

The Scottish Government has also underlined the value we place on our nurses extends to remuneration and unlike the UK Government, we chose to accept the recommendation of the NHS pay review body in full for a 1% consolidated uplift in pay.

Pay aside, we are making significant financial investment with an increase in the overall budget in 2015/16, an increase in nursing numbers, extending the no compulsory redundancy guarantee and putting in place measures to support professional development that will lead to a more confident and better equipped workforce.

In addition to having record staffing levels, Scotland is leading the UK in the development of mandatory workforce planning tools for nursing and midwifery. These will help health boards plan for staffing required. I am confident that they will ensure that boards have the right number of staff required to provide the best possible care for patients.

A number of health boards have received additional investment to increase their nursing numbers and are currently in the process of recruiting to these additional posts.

Development of the NHS workforce is driven by and reflects service change designed to maintain and enhance the quality of care for patients while increasing efficiency. Our assurance to staff and patients is that quality will always come first.

To this end there are more medical, dental, allied health profession, nursing, midwifery and support services working in Scotland's hospitals and community settings now than at the start of the previous Parliament.

Nurses play a central part in supporting the 2020 Workforce Vision, which focuses on preventative healthcare and shifting more care into the community.

As I have previously outlined, I want to try and reach as much consensus around what we want our health and social care systems to look like over longer time frames and the steps we need to take to get there.

This will include planning what capacity is required, where and what the workforce will need to look like to deliver these new services in a different way, and we will be working with NHS staff as well as professional bodies and the royal colleges to inform this work. There are many instances of nurses extending their practice, working in a variety of settings and with a range of colleagues within and across organisations.

For example, through Leading Better Care, senior charge nurses have been supported to demonstrate the impact of their role on the quality of care to patients and their families and carers, by focusing on the measurement of the quality, safety and reliability of care, focusing on quality improvement rather than a measure of performance.

Our Setting the Direction programme focuses on six strategic aims and provides the platform for a strong and positive future for nursing and midwifery education in Scotland and will enable nurses to deliver high quality care within a rapidly changing health and care context.

We sometimes find ourselves in the position of receiving criticism for things that did not go so well and, while we must always strive to improve patient care it is equally important to reflect on the improvements, which have been made and look at the successes.

This is shown through the Scottish Inpatient survey that indicates that 89% of patients said overall care and treatment was good or excellent.

The NHS is a top priority for the Scottish Government and the post of Health Secretary comes with the responsibility for thousands of staff and millions of potential patients.

It is my job to ensure that the NHS continues to deliver the best quality of care to patients and their families and that the right decisions are made to ensure our NHS is fit for the future health of the nation.

To do that, we need dedicated frontline staff who are equipped with the right skills and facilities to deliver the high quality of care that is expected. I think here in Scotland we have an NHS to be proud of and the staff are central to that success.