Healthcare in Scotland

4 mins read

Healthcare in Scotland is mainly provided by Scotland's public health service, NHS Scotland.

In this article

The structure of healthcare in Scotland

Integrated health and social care

In 2016, the Scottish Government brought health and social care together in to a single, integrated system. The aim is to improve care and support for people who use services, their carers and their families.

There is greater emphasis on joining up services and focusing on early intervention and preventative care.  More focus has also been placed on health care destinations and support for children and young people and those who care for them. 

Local integration authorities

The legislation that brought health and social care together also created 31 integration authorities. These are required to work with their local communities and providers of care to ensure care is responsive to people’s needs. 

Each of the 31 health and social care partnerships across Scotland has a unique set of integration arrangements. A list of the 31 integration authorities and their chief officers is on the Health and Social Care Scotland website.

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC)

In addition to this, the Scottish government published Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) in 2006.

GIRFEC applies to all health, social care and education services for children in Scotland. It provides the policy framework for improving children’s wellbeing and improving outcomes for all children. It places the child at the centre of thinking, planning and action.

What services are available?

Health services your child might use include:

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) include staff who have specific experience and training in working with children and young people with Learning Disabilities and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. For more information, see the CAMHS national service specification.

Your child might also get a referral to other medical consultants for further treatment.

How to access services

Getting a diagnosis

Once you realise your child may have a learning difficulty or health concern, getting a diagnosis might be the next step.

There are many disabled children living without a diagnosis. If you care for a child without a diagnosis, you may worry that you won’t get any help or support. This is not the case. Read our information about support when your child does not have a diagnosis.

Our A-Z of medical conditions is a directory of reliable, medically approved information on more than 400 medical conditions, including rare syndromes, and support groups for them.

If you have concerns

If you have concerns about your child’s health or their development, talk to your GP or health visitor first.  See a list of health and wellbeing services in Scotland, including GP practices and hospitals.

Your GP or health visitor may refer you to a consultant or community paediatrician. They can provide an assessment, diagnosis and the follow-up you need. They can link you to wider professional support from allied health professionals (AHPs) like speech and language therapists and physiotherapists.

Help to access NHS services

Navigating NHS services can be quite challenging, particularly when a number of different professionals are involved.

The NHS Inform website, including a section for young people and helpline, has information on health, treatments, patient rights and long-term conditions.

Children’s Health Scotland is a charity dedicated to promoting and championing the needs of all children and young people and their families at times of illness. It provides a website offering information and advice and contact destinations for an extensive range of childhood conditions.

Our Contact Scotland By Your Side parent adviser is here to provide support to families attending hospital to make sure they have the right information they need.  Email with your enquiry.

Other useful NHS information and contacts 

NHS inform is Scotland’s health information service. It offers quality assured health and care information via a website and phone service. 

Use NHS 111 for urgent care and advice when your GP, pharmacy or dental practice is closed.

For information about your rights when you use NHS services in Scotland, please read the Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities. This summarises what you are entitled to when you use NHS services and receive NHS care in Scotland, and what you can do if you feel that your rights have not been respected. An easy read version of the charter is also available.