Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed the Scottish Government intends to build a National Care Service to create a positive legacy from the coronavirus tragedy.
The first minister compared the “bold” shake-up envisaged for social care services to the establishment of the NHS after the Second World War, as ministers outlined the “first step on the road” in the process.
Families of service users will be consulted as part of the plans, which are to be drawn up by an expert panel that is due to report back with options as early as January.
The move paves the way for radical reforms to the organisation, regulation and funding of social care, which supports more than 200,000 people in Scotland, including at care homes and day services, as well as helping people with disabilities, mental health, and drug and alcohol problems.
Care homes have been hit by numerous tragedies during the pandemic, and Ms Sturgeon admitted the crisis had “underlined the need for improvement and reform”, as she delivered her programme for government on Tuesday.
She said: “I can therefore announce today the immediate establishment of a comprehensive independent review of adult social care.
“The review will seek the views of those with direct experience of adult social care, and make recommendations for immediate improvements.
“However, more fundamentally, it will examine and set out options for the creation of a National Care Service.”
The first minister added: “This is a moment to be bold and to build a service fit for the future.
“The National Health Service was born out of the tragedy of the Second World War.
“Let us resolve that we will build out of this Covid crisis the lasting and positive legacy of a high-quality National Care Service.”
The review will be chaired by Derek Feeley, former director general of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government.
National Care Service is fine but the devil’s in detail and key issues that could make what sounds like a good idea into something else include importance of local dimension (*NOT* modelled on NHS), collaboration/integration with related services, personalisation + empowerment.
— James Mitchell (@ProfJMitchell) September 1, 2020
.@NicolaSturgeon has outlined the "first step" towards the creation of a National Care Service in today's Programme for Government. We welcome this announcement and we look forward to working with @scotgov to improve care for people affected by motor neurone disease. #PFG
— MND Scotland (@MNDScotland) September 1, 2020
Invoking the spirit of 1945 in relation to a National Care Service is misleading if you're not willing to commit to that service being publicly owned, democratically run, and based on need. How we do something is more important than what we call it.
— Maddy Kirkman (@MaddyKirkman) September 1, 2020
Other panel members include former Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm, Centre for Better Ageing chief executive Anna Dixon, former Auditor General Caroline Gardner, Councillor Stuart Currie, Health and Social Care Alliance chief executive Ian Welsh, and Göran Henriks, chief executive of learning and innovation in Jönköping, Sweden.
Mr Feeley said: “I look forward to views of everyone involved in our social care system and, in particular, to hearing from service users about what it will take for us to better meet their needs, rights and preferences.
“We have a broad remit that touches on every part of the social care landscape; from the experience of those using and working in the system to how it should be funded and regulated. We will look at every option and opportunity to bring about the improvements that I know everyone working in the system aspires to achieve.”
However, Labour’s Monica Lennon said: “The advisory panel doesn’t include anyone from the front line, so we need to get that sorted.
“There is no trade union representation. There is no one representing the voice of workers.
“That needs to change because if we had listened to workers at the start we wouldn’t have seen the tragedies that we have seen today.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The advisory panel will undoubtedly reach out and hear from all of the unions involved.
“The first minister said she fully expected the advisory panel to want to hear from every opposition party in this chamber, as well as those who are families, relatives and so on.”
“Long-standing issues in adult social care have been thrown into sharp relief during the pandemic, and they demand our attention.
“We owe it to those who use and work in adult social care services to acknowledge these challenges, to learn from them, and to consider carefully how we can most effectively plan for the future.”