Happy New Year NHS
Healthcare workers have been commended by Nicola Sturgeon for delivering a successful 2011 in a New Year letter to all NHS staff.
In her message the Health Secretary reflected on the hard work and dedication of NHS employees and highlighted their involvement in the year's key achievements.
Ms Sturgeon said:
"I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone in the NHS for their continued hard work and commitment during the year.
"As we look back over 2011, we can reflect on a year where the health service has continued to make a difference to the people of Scotland through work to improve the health of the nation and the quality of our health services.
"NHS Staff have made impressive improvements in waiting times for access to high quality healthcare services and treatments. They have also made important progress on issues as varied as access to GPs and dentistry, support for people with long term conditions, outcomes for cancer, stroke and heart disease. They are achieving improved outcomes for people reducing the need for hospitalisation, shorter stays, faster recovery and longer life expectancy. They have a world leading patient safety programme which is making a real difference to standards of care and to hospital mortality. All of these achievements are a direct result of the drive and commitment shown by people working for our NHS.
"During the year, as I have visited NHS Boards across Scotland, I have witnessed the hard work, determination and commitment that is shown day in day out that will help us to deal with these future challenges.
"I am conscious of the challenging times we live in. I also understand that this time of year often takes those who work in our NHS away from their family and friends. As the NHS continues to provide such excellent services over the festive period, I think I speak on behalf of everyone in Scotland when I express my appreciation for our health worker's dedication.
"I wish everyone in Scotland a very happy Christmas and New Year."
Key highlights for Scotland's health service over the past year include:
The 'detect cancer early' plan to increase the number of Scots diagnosed in the earliest stages of cancer by 25 per cent - to improve cancer survival rates for patients in Scotland - was announced.
The Scottish Government awarded a contract for the supply of new treatment systems for radiotherapy departments in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. The equipment will treat tumours in a faster and more precise manner, including tumours that move during treatment as the patient breathes in and out.
The latest waiting times figures for cancer show that Scotland continues to beat targets ahead of schedule.
NHS Scotland met the target to reduce the number of premature deaths from stroke and heart disease. Between 1995 and 2010, there was a 59 per cent cut in deaths from stroke among under 75s, as well as a 60.7 per cent reduction - against a 60 per cent target - in early mortality rates from coronary heart disease.
Scotland's Parliament was called upon to join forces with those across the country who are serious about tackling Scotland's battle with alcohol misuse as the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill was published.
The Standards of Care for Dementia and the dementia skills framework, Promoting Excellence, were launched to help ensure standards are met through enhancing workforce capability and developing leadership within the dementia workforce.
Plans on the integration of adult health and social care were announced. The moves aim to improve the quality and consistency of care for older people and put an end to the 'cost-shunting' between the NHS and local authorities that can end up with older people being delayed in hospital longer than they should be and not getting the best standards of care.