Labour will go into the forthcoming Scottish elections pledging to create a National Care Service by 2015, integrating health and social care and underpinned by national quality standards.
With the country due to go to the polls on 5 May, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray reaffirmed his party’s commitment to an end to the postcode lottery for care between areas and the integration of health and social care budgets for older people.
He was speaking after the publication of a report into the idea commissioned by the party, which called for any National Care Service to be underpinned by a “charter for social care in Scotland”, to ensure equity of provision between areas, backed by a “rigorous” inspection regime.
Gray accepted the recommendation from the expert panel, headed by John Arbuthnott, the former chair of Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.
Labour is committed to integrating health and social care budgets locally, and the Arbuthnott inquiry said this needed to be underpinned by statutory powers.
However, it rejected the idea of setting up a central bureaucracy to oversee local arrangements, saying that the “national” element of the National Care Service would consist of national standards for care rather than new governmental structures.
“I want to see fair care for all older people, with the same high standards no matter what part of the country you live in,” said Gray. “Too many older people don’t get the dignity they deserve, too many are isolated and lonely, and too many fall in the gap between hospital and social work.”
The current SNP government in Edinburgh has also promoted integration between health and social care by calling on councils and health boards to set up “lead commissioning” arrangements, under which one authority in each area would take responsibility for health and social care for defined client groups.
Concerns were raised about a lack of focus in the Arbuthnott report on family carers. “It is disappointing that there is not greater recognition of the role and contribution of Scotland’s unpaid carers in the report,” said Florence Burke, director for Scotland at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers. “If a National Care Service and a national charter for care are taken forward after the election, unpaid carers must be seen as critical to these developments.”
The fuse is lit on free personal care in Scotland