Establishment of National Care Service moves closer

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

A National Care Service (NCS) in Scotland moved a step closer following publication of a Bill providing a framework for its creation.

The NCS Bill, which has been laid before the Scottish parliament, will look to establish the service, allowing ministers to transfer social care responsibility to it from local authorities.

This could include adult and children’s services, as well as areas such as justice social work. However, the Scottish government would need to consult with the public before transferring responsibilities relating to children’s services or justice social work.

Ministers will also have the power to transfer healthcare functions from the NHS and health boards to the NCS. Care or health services that are transferred could be delivered nationally or locally. The Bill states bodies called ‘care boards’ would be responsible for delivery locally.

As well as providing the foundation for the NCS, aims include to ensure fair employment practices and national pay bargaining for the social care workforce; creating a charter of rights and responsibilities for the sector, with a robust complaints and redress process; introducing visiting rights for residents living in adult care homes, giving legal force to Anne’s Law; and focusing on prevention and early intervention before people’s needs escalate.

In February last year an independent review proposed a NCS to help drive improvements in the way provision was delivered. Wales has since followed and in November set up a group to investigate the creation of a service.

Cabinet secretary for health and social care in Scotland Humza Yousaf said: ‘The design of the NCS will have human rights embedded throughout, and the actual shape and detail of how the NCS works will be designed with those who have direct experience of accessing and providing social care.

‘We are going to end the postcode lottery of care in Scotland. Through the NCS we’re going to ensure everyone has access to consistently high-quality care and support so they can live a full life. This is our ambitious goal and while it will not be easy to achieve it is vital that we do.’

The Bill will be scrutinised and amended by MSPs from all parties in three stages, with the first beginning in September.

Elsewhere, work is underway to implement legislation designed to support the wellbeing of health and care staff and create a culture of openness.

The Health and Care (Staffing) Act, passed by the Scottish parliament in 2019, aims to ensure appropriate staffing levels are in place to support care for patients and service users. Legislation, due to be completed by spring 2024, is also designed to embed a culture of openness so workers are informed about decisions relating to staffing and feel able to raise concerns.

Work will begin, in conjunction with professional bodies, trade unions and staff, to develop guidance and tools to support implementation of the legislation.