THERE is “no plan in existence” setting out how the NHS in Scotland will adapt its staff and operations to cope with future demand, MSPs have heard.

Holyrood’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee was told there were “too many” proposals from different health boards, councils and integrated joint boards.

But members heard from senior NHS staff that discussions on a single national plan had only just begun and would take up to three years to develop.

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It came as MSPs took evidence from senior NHS staff on Audit Scotland’s latest annual report on the health service which found the nation's health “is not improving”.

Tim Davison, regional implementation lead for the east of Scotland, told the committee: “There is no plan, I think, across Scotland or the UK that accurately at this stage describes what a redesigned health and social care workforce might look like for the future."

“That is the huge challenge the Auditor General is throwing down in her report.”

He said there is high level agreement on the need for workforce reform and long-term planning but health boards and government are “still a long way off” turning that into roles with job descriptions and pay rates.

Deputy committee convener Liam Kerr said: “Did you really just say to me that there is no plan? That we’re sitting here with a crisis and there’s no plan in existence to sort it out?”

Mr Davison, who is also NHS Lothian chief executive, said health boards and government had to “collectively hold our hands up” to failing to have a long-term workforce plan in place.

He said there were “too many” plans, as schemes are drawn up at health board, council and health and social care integration board level, but there is currently no comprehensive national long-term plan drawing it all together.

He added: “All of us from health board to government, we’ve failed to pull the link from short-term operational planning and longer-term workforce planning.”

The committee heard initial meetings had been set up and it could take up to three years for the national plan.

SNP MSP and former health minister Alex Neil said the starting point for the workforce plan should be working out the future demand for health services, not how many workers are needed.