Future care planning

Video transcript and visual description

‘Sometimes people worry about their health changing at some point in the future.’

Illustration of older person with white hair looking worried.

‘This could be because of long term health conditions or disabilities, or a serious illness. Or because they are getting older and a bit more frail.  People who are caring for someone might worry about what will happen if they are unwell.’

Illustration of diverse group of people including adults of various ages, a small child, a wheelchair user and a dog.

‘If you’re worried that your health might change or you’ll need more help soon, the people looking after you want to hear what’s important to you and talk about what can help. In the NHS and social care services in Scotland, we call this Future Care Planning.’

Illustration of older person with white hair talking to a doctor, a nurse and a care worker.

‘You can ask to talk with your doctor or your nurse or speak to another care worker that you know. Or, one of them might suggest having a conversation with you about planning ahead.  You can ask any questions, discuss things that are on your mind, and get a better idea of what treatments, care and support might be available to you. It can help to include family or close friends in these discussions.’

Illustration of older person and nurse with speech and though bubbles containing pictures of 1. medications, 2. a care worker outside a house, 3. a hospital and 4. a dog. Family members then appear in picture.

‘This lets you tell people about what matters to you. Your doctor, nurse or carer can put what you tell them into the care plan in your health record.’

Illustration of 1. medications, 2. a care worker outside a house, 3. a hospital and 4. a dog being added to a document called ‘care plan’.

‘Your care plan can be shared safely with other professionals and services like NHS 24, the ambulance service, and hospitals. That helps staff see important information about you and your health, treatments and care. Your care plan can be changed if you want, or if things change for you.’

Illustration of document called ‘care plan’ with arrows pointing to a sign for 1. NHS 24, 2. an ambulance, 3. a sign for Out of Hours GP and 4. sign for Emergency Department.

‘Changes in your health can affect other parts of your life too. Some people choose to get advice about things like making a will, managing money or setting up a Power of Attorney.’

Illustration of older person with white hair thinking, followed by appearance of a drawing of a will, notes and coins and a Power of Attorney document.

‘On the NHS inform website there is information about Future Care Planning to help you find out more about what you can do to plan ahead.’

Illustration of NHS inform logo and a QR code linking to nhsinform.scot

Future care planning helps you talk about what matters to you if your health changes. You can talk with people who are close to you about having a future care plan and with your doctor, nurse or care worker. People looking after you want to hear about what’s important when they’re planning your treatment and care with you, now and in the future.

Making plans and knowing how to get the right help means there’s less to think about if you become unwell. It’s better to start thinking ahead and making some plans for your life, health and care while you are well.

If you’re a carer, you can make plans to support the person you care for if your own health changes.

You can start future care planning yourself by finding out about it and talking with your family and friends.

Everyone is different and can have their own plan. Future care plans may include:

Why plan ahead?

Thinking ahead and making plans for changes in your health gives you more say over what happens. You may already have thought about what you’d like people to know about you. Future care planning is the way to do this in Scotland.

Talking about your health and what matters to you can help you:

  • manage changes in your health and wellbeing, or family situation
  • have a plan for what to do if you (or your carer) get ill or need help in an emergency
  • tell people what you would like to be able to do now and in future
  • record anything you do not want to happen
  • tell people about your life, your beliefs or anything else important

If you’re unwell, your family or friends may need to help make decisions about your treatment and care. Having a future care plan makes this easier for them.

Who can have a future care plan?

Anyone of any age can start future care planning and plan ahead. Having a future care plan in your healthcare record is free of charge. Future care plans give people caring for you information about you, your life, and your health conditions. They are not legal documents but can help guide decisions about your treatment and care.

Future care planning is particularly important and helpful if you:

  • have one or more long-term health conditions
  • have disabilities
  • have many health and support needs
  • are an older person and you need regular help and support
  • are a carer for someone else
  • are a young person or the parent or carer of a child or young person with a serious health condition or disabilities that will get worse

How do I start planning ahead?

You can begin planning at any time. People often start to think ahead and talk with friends and family when life events happen such as:

  • a new diagnosis
  • a hospital admission
  • moving into a care home
  • a decline in health that means you need more help and support

Your GP, nurse or care worker might suggest a meeting to start talking about your health, care and support. You can bring a family member or friend, or carer with you if you wish.

If you think future care planning is important for you, ask your doctor, nurse or care worker about starting a plan.

Conversations can cover:

  • how planning ahead can help you
  • what you know about your health and how it might change
  • medical information about your health, treatment and care
  • what matters to you and your family or other people close to you
  • what treatment and care options you have and how they can help you
  • treatments that would not work for you
  • treatments you do not want
  • agreeing your plan with you and how it will be reviewed and updated

You can also talk about any other questions, worries, or problems you may have.

How health plans are recorded, shared and updated

Key Information Summary (KIS)

Future care plans are usually added to a person’s Key Information Summary (KIS). The KIS is an electronic health record. It is held in your GP practice health record and shared securely with other health services and teams including:

  • hospitals
  • NHS 24
  • the ambulance service
  • out of hours healthcare services
  • community pharmacies

The KIS has information that NHS staff should know if you need urgent or emergency treatment and care. Anyone can ask their GP if they have a KIS or ask for one to be started.

Other health records

ReSPECT plans are used for future care planning in several health boards in Scotland. A ReSPECT plan has information about what matters to the person. It also has clinical recommendations to help health and care staff make better decisions. ReSPECT stands for Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment.

Over time your health and situation may change. Your future care plan can be updated at any time. You can ask for this to happen. Your GP, nurse, or another healthcare professional or care worker may suggest reviewing your plan.

Further information about planning ahead

Changes in your health can affect all aspects of your life. Some people choose to get advice about legal and financial planning from a lawyer or advice centre.

Read further information about:

Last updated:
02 February 2024

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