Richard Leonard calls for Scottish National Care Service to fix social care crisis

Andrew Kersley

Scottish Labour have called on the SNP to create a state-run National Care Service, after polling indicated that 92% of people think Scotland’s social care system is not working properly.

This comes as Public Health Scotland today announced that July saw a 19% increase on June in the number of patients who had their discharge from hospital delayed. Problems with social care accounted for most of those delays, with the rest being caused by medical needs or family-related reasons.

The increase suggests a return to pre-Covid rates of delays, where on any given day in February 1,500 of Scotland’s 13,000 hospital beds were occupied by patients whose discharge had been delayed.

The polling, which was part of a public consultation launched by Scottish Labour into the care service, also showed that 84% of those polled opposed all private involvement in Scottish social care and 90% backed greater public control of all social care.

Commenting on the need to reform Scotland’s social care, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Social care in Scotland is in crisis. Despite less than 1% of the population living in care homes, deaths from coronavirus in Scotland’s care homes have made up almost half of the national total.”

“We must turn the page on this chapter in our national history and establish a National Care Service that puts people, not profit first.”

“The SNP government must not fail to outline a radical shake-up of care in Scotland in today’s Programme for Government. We owe it to care workers and those who receive care to learn the lessons of this pandemic.”

Problems in social care during the pandemic were first brought to prominence after it was revealed that in an effort to clear beds elderly hospital patients were discharged back into care homes without being tested for the virus.

In July, a report by the Office for National Statistics also showed care homes that used private agency and bank staff saw radically higher rates of Covid-19 among both patients and staff.

The study, that covered a total of 9,081 care homes and nearly 300,000 residents, concluded that agency staff who worked in multiple homes, sometimes without statutory sick pay, helped spread the virus across different care homes.

These problems were particularly acute in Scottish care homes, which accounted for 45% of the country’s coronavirus deaths, as opposed to 21% in England and 25% in Wales. Since the beginning of the pandemic in Scotland, more coronavirus patients have died in in care homes, at 1,950, than in hospitals, at 1,945.

Responding to the Public Health Scotland figures, Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “After the catastrophic rush to end delayed discharge at the outset of the pandemic, the Scottish government is still failing to properly support adult social care.”

“Older and disabled people are once again becoming stuck in hospital because of a lack of appropriate care for them in the community.”

“The dignity and quality of life of older and disabled people continues to be sacrificed and tragically, many lost their lives because the state failed to protect them.”

In January, before the pandemic hit, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the social care service was “under pressure” after a series of serious concerns were raised by the Care Inspectorate. The social care watchdog highlighted the case of one Edinburgh care home where a resident had to use a sink to wash just once a week.

Update, 4pm: Leonard has welcomed Sturgeon’s announcement today that the SNP government will take “the first step on the road to a National Care Service” as part of its Programme for Government.

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