Michael Matheson, member of Scottish Parliament and former cabinet secretary for transport, has been appointed as the next Scottish health secretary.
Nursing leaders have called on the incoming health secretary to ensure the ‘workforce crisis’ across Scotland’s health and social care services is his ‘top priority’.
On Wednesday, new first minister Humza Yousaf announced that Mr Matheson would become cabinet secretary for NHS recovery, health and social care, pending approval by parliament.
In taking up the role, Mr Matheson will be filling in the position formerly occupied by Mr Yousaf, who played a large role in successfully negotiating a pay settlement for NHS staff in Scotland while health secretary.
Mr Matheson was elected to Holyrood in 2007 as the MSP for Falkirk West for the Scottish National Party. He was subsequently made minister for public health in 2011, supporting Nicola Sturgeon while she served as health secretary.
Since then, Mr Matheson has also been appointed to the positions of justice secretary, cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, and most recently cabinet secretary for net zero, energy, and transport under Nicola Sturgeon.
Before election to Holyrood Mr Matheson worked for eight years as an occupational therapist.
Commenting on the announcement, Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director said: ‘The workforce crisis in Scotland’s health and care services must be Michael Matheson’s top priority.’
He added that ‘chronic staff shortages and low morale are still very real and having a huge impact on the safety and quality of patient care’.
‘We need to see urgent action to tackle the exodus of nursing staff from our profession and make nursing a career of choice once again,’ said Mr Poolman.
The new Scottish health secretary must also prioritise the work of the newly launched Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce and ‘live up to his predecessor’s promise to reform Agenda for Change to ensure that it recognises the clinical skills and expertise of nursing staff.’
Mr Matheson’s appointment is set to be formally approved by Parliament today.