The “most important transformation” to the NHS since its formation after the Second World War has been promised by the Scottish Government as it moves to begin setting up the National Care Service within the next 100 days.
Recently appointed cabinet secretary for health Humza Yousaf said the roll-out of the NCS would be completed within the five-year term of this parliament during a debate at Holyrood on Tuesday.
Consultation on legislation — the first steps the government can take in creating the service — will begin before the middle of September, Mr Yousaf told parliament.
Once completed, Mr Yousaf said he hopes to bring the legislation before parliament “within the first year”.
An amendment proposed by Scottish Labour to guarantee £15-per-hour for care staff by 2026 was rejected by MSPs.
Mr Yousaf set-out the Scottish Government’s health recovery plan to stabilize the NHS as the country repairs from the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the 100 days plan, Mr Yousaf said there would be a 10% increase in activity for inpatient and outpatient cases and more investment in mental health services and women’s health.
Mr Yousaf said: “Our commitment to create a National Care Service will deliver serivces founded on fairness, equality and human rights, and are placed on the same level of esteem as the National Health Service.
“This will be the most significant public sector reform since the creation of the NHS in 1948 and will be operational within the five-year lifetime of this parliament.
“In our first 100 days we will begin consultation on the necessary legislation with a view to introducing it within the first year of this parliament.
“We will also establish a social covenant steering group including those with lived experience who use our care services.”
Lib Dems oppose NCS
The creation of a nationalised care service is opposed by the Scottish Lib Dems, who claim it could become another “centralised bureaucracy”.
Party health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said during the debate: “While social care is unquestionably in need of reform in this country and needs parity of investment, we do not believe that the management and control of that reform should lie in the establishment of another centralised bureaucracy.”
Labour supports private-sector “bolster” for NHS
Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP warned against dropping private-sector support as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, which has been used previously to “bolster capacity” in cancer treatments.
An amendment in her name seeking a guaranteed wage of £15-per-hour for care staff by the end of the next parliamentary session was rejected by MSPs, with 29 voting in favour for it, 89 against, four abstaining and seven giving no vote.
She said: “The NHS has been underfunded for years, demand is increasing and we don’t have the staff to cope, so we are facing a perfect storm.”
She added: “The First Minister said to this chamber that we would ‘use capacity from wherever we can find it’.
“I agree with her, so how disappointing to learn from the minutes of the National Cancer Recovery Group on March 19 that the ‘majority of private sector capacity will cease at the end of March’.
“The same minute expressed concern from clinicians about the impact of the loss of this additional capacity. This, at the same time as urgent breast cancer referrals were 42 per cent above pre-Covid levels.
“Whilst I am not a fan of private medicine, simply cutting off that valuable capacity that would help us catch up, without having anything in its place, is simply unforgiveable.
“The cabinet secretary’s predecessor used the private sector to bolster capacity in the NHS – it is short-sighted to end it when that capacity is clearly still required because it might make the difference between someone living or dying.”
Tories call for cross-party action on “Scotland’s shame”
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells called for “cross-party” support for tackling the country’s drugs death crisis, which she described as “Scotland’s shame”.
She also said there should be further support beyond the Government’s 100 days plan.
She said: “The NHS backlog is at great risk of spiralling out of control.
“If urgent action is not taken we could be heading for a full blown healthcare crisis.”
At the end of March, about 100,000 Scots were waiting for key diagnostic tests, she said.
The promised increase in inpatient and outpatient activity must not come at the expense of the time consultants spend with individual patients, Ms Wells added.
Green MSP recalls family support from NHS
Scottish Greens health spokeswoman, Gillian McKay, paid an emotional tribute to health and social care staff who supported both her mother and grandfather, who have passed away in the past seven months.
Fighting back tears, Ms McKay said: “As many in the chamber will be aware, we lost my mum in December and my grandpa just over two months ago – without the nurses at the stroke ward at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, we wouldn’t have had those last few precious phone calls with mum.
“I am forever in their debt and I will fight for the working conditions they and all of their colleagues deserve.”