Scots councils slam health and social care merger plans

Labour and Scottish National Party plans to merge health and social care would cost £300m and simply "change the badge on a social care worker's shirt", local government leaders have warned on the eve of the Scottish Parliament elections.

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Labour and Scottish National Party plans to merge health and social care would cost £300m and simply “change the badge on a social care worker’s shirt”, local government leaders have warned on the eve of the Scottish Parliament elections.

Transferring adult care from councils to the NHS was an “expensive distraction designed to gain short-term electoral advantage”, said the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).

Both Labour and the SNP would merge health and adult care and have suggested this would involve a transfer of responsibilities from councils to NHS boards.

Cosla has calculated that transferring adult social care to the NHS, which would involve shifting 38,500 staff and other assets, would cost £300m.

It said this could be spent on 25 million hours of home care or 85 million hot meals.

“The simple truth is that history shows that restructuring is costly, difficult to implement, and doesn’t deliver the savings that are expected,” said Douglas Yates, Cosla’s health and well-being spokesperson. “Everyone agrees that resources are getting tighter and demand for care services is increasing, so now is not the time to be taking £300 million out of frontline, life and limb services.”

Labour plans to create a National Care Service with responsibility for health and adult social care, delivered locally through reformed community health and care partnerships, which exist in some areas and involve the transfer of council social care responsibilities to NHS boards.

The SNP plans to set up “lead commissioning” arrangements for health and adult social care, under which either the NHS or local authorities would take responsibility for both services in each area. A press release on the issue by the SNP government in February suggested this could involve the transfer of 38,000 staff from councils to the NHS, suggesting a health takeover.

Though Labour and the SNP have been running neck-and-neck during the election campaign, the latest polls show the nationalists pulling ahead, with nine days to go before the 5 May polling day.

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