The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Integrated

As I reflect on my tenure as chair of the Chief Officer Group, Health and Social Care Scotland (HSCS), I’m reminded of the prophetic final words in my previous Chair’s Report, ‘2020 will be perhaps the most challenging year in our integrated landscape. Marshaled well, it will capture the best of us and help create a more community-focused and integrated health and social care future.’

The loss of life through COVID has touched our families, friends, colleagues, patients, service users, carers, and clients. And the trauma experienced by many of our teams and those in our partner organisations is significant and unprecedented. Psychological care is now key to ensuring people in our partnerships are supported and encouraged to personally recover. Looking after those who care for and support others has never been more important.

Since the end of February 2020, chief officers and their local systems have continued to respond to ongoing waves of the COVID-19. Over a year on and parts of our health and social care system are able to look to the future with hope as services begin to recover, but there are others still immersed in responding to the pandemic and for whom renewal feels less close. The single focus on COVID across all sectors enabled partnership working and distributed leadership, and many of the barriers previously experienced to integrated partnership working melted away as we collectively worked to respond. New relationships have been forged both nationally and locally, new ways of working have been established and digital approaches, which have transformed some service delivery, have enabled ongoing remote working. A seemingly newly found appreciation of the value of social care is being articulated, not least as a result of the sustained pressure on our whole health and care system, and in particular, the trauma experienced by those who work and live in care homes. Our collective experience and the sustained pressure has been on a scale never experienced in our lifetimes. As integrated systems, our teams have been central to the COVID response in our communities and chief officers have led this response. Our staff and partners worked tirelessly to put in place effective mobilisation plans, financial plans and workforce plans to respond and deploy support for the changing pattern of demand. While at the same time our teams continued to provide ongoing care and support across our communities for those in need as best as available resources enabled us to do.

I am immensely proud of the response that fellow chief officers have led across Scotland during these unprecedented times. I am grateful and humbled by our colleagues and teams from across the health and social care sector, and those who use services and our communities, as they have continued to respond to the challenging and changing circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all experiencing a cycle of adaptation on a collective scale like never before – learning, adapting, and learning some more. COVID-19 has dominated the last 14 months and will forever be synonymous with 2020: It has changed the way we live and the way we work. As recovery moves to the fore, and we work to maintain the benefits gained through COVID (and there are many) we can look to the future with hope.

The clear vision for the future of social care and integrated approaches, and the potential for improving people’s experience of services, is outlined in the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and I believe chief officers in integrated systems are perfectly placed, are capable, and able to lead, by adapting and learning yet again.

As I conclude one of the most challenging years of my career as a Chief Officer and as Chair of Health and Social Care Scotland, I am so grateful that my tenure as Chair has been supported by such brilliant colleagues and friends. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you, and to welcome the new Chair, Judith Proctor, and Executive Group.

The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Integrated


Vicky Irons
Outgoing Chair,
Chief Officer Group,
Health and Social Care Scotland