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What is national planning?

Published on 16 April 2024

About national planning

National Planning is an NHSScotland (NHSS) wide agenda. It offers a new governance approach to decision making around the planning of key NHS clinical (and sometimes non-clinical) services. Finance, workforce, digital and infrastructure are all priorities within this. In short, it places focus on delivering quality and consistency across various specialist services.

The national planning agenda will centre around any NHS clinical services that can only be dealt with nationally. Generally, these will be population based. The criteria for planning at a national level will be founded on volume (small numbers) and workforce (scarce/ super specialist skills). There is growing evidence to suggest a more significant relationship between volume of activity and patient outcome than previously acknowledged. New technologies or unnecessary variation in provision and/ or outcome of care across Scotland may also prompt a national review.

National Planning itself has four key functions, which are:


Commissioning portfolio groups to look at developing a longer-term view on what areas may need planning in the future. What will NHSScotland need to plan now for the coming five to 10 years?


A review of existing NHS services where regional and local plans highlight the potential for more effective service planning at a national level.

Service planning

Following on from reviews or exploration through horizon scans, national planning may form specific service planning groups. These will plan for the future model or service provision.


Working in partnership with Scottish Government and territorial boards will ensure we're all planning for the future. Connecting to the finance framework, infrastructure board, digital board and workforce board will be crucial.

Governance and structure

In December 2023 the National Planning Board was replaced by the Strategic Planning Board (SPB). As part of the national planning framework, the SPB will provide strategic oversight, governance and decision making (appropriate for this Board), in relation to national and cross-border (regional) planning of NHSS services, and set the strategic direction for the medium to long term, taking account of the enabling resources – finance, workforce, and infrastructure.

The SPB will report to the Planning and Delivery Board and ultimately to the Health and Social Care Management Board. Should you have any questions please contact our National Planning team for further information.

Contact our National Planning team for further information. You can also continue reading about each of the key areas of focus by navigating to the next page.