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Understanding supervision in health and social care through the experiences of practitioners in Scotland

Helen Allbutt (Planning and Corporate Governance, NHS Education for Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
Iain Colthart (NMAHP, NHS Education for Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
Nancy El-Farargy (Planning and Corporate Governance, NHS Education for Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
Caroline Sturgeon (Scottish Social Services Council, Dundee, UK)
Jo Vallis (Medicine, NHS Education for Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
Murray Lough (Medicine, NHS Education for Scotland, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 18 April 2017




The purpose of this paper is to describe a collaborative study on supervision with health and social care practitioners in Scotland. The study attempted to gain a better understanding about the use and benefit of supervision from a multiprofessional perspective.


Consultation events with health and social care staff and 12 informant interviews were undertaken. Data analysis was via the Framework Method.


Managers were more likely to conceive of supervision as a positive intervention than those in lower pay bands. The practice of supervision was variable. Not all staff appeared to take part in regular supervisory activities even when it was mandated. A lack of professional, organisational or local commitment to implement robust supervisory structures and processes was seen as the major barrier to effective supervision.

Research limitations/implications

This was a small study, thus findings would need to be confirmed by health and social care staff working across a wider spectrum of disciplines and regions across Scotland.

Practical implications

A combination of factors would seem to determine effective supervisory practice. Supervision was perceived to be of benefit when individuals were willing to participate fully, when there was reflection and planned action, constructive challenge, respectful relationships, regular and protected sessions and processes were appropriate to an employee’s circumstances.


This study situates supervision in the current context of health and social care and finds it to be an irregular practice. The findings confirm the existing literature about the importance of supervisor-supervisee relationships but explain differing perceptions of supervision in terms of staff seniority.



The authors thank all the health and social care delegates including NES research volunteers who contributed to discussions on supervision. The authors are very grateful to the informants for their time and careful reflection on questions about supervisory practice. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of Professor Brian Durward, NES and SSSC for the opportunity to conduct this project. There was no external funding sponsor. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those solely of the authors and do not reflect those of their employing organisations.


Allbutt, H., Colthart, I., El-Farargy, N., Sturgeon, C., Vallis, J. and Lough, M. (2017), "Understanding supervision in health and social care through the experiences of practitioners in Scotland", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 120-130.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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