The disconnect between health and social care must be addressed by integration.
A week is a long time in politics.
MSPs agreement to the Scottish Government’s motion on the integration of adult health and social care on Thursday afternoon (7 March) closed a three day period in which the Cabinet Secretary addressed both Building the Connections and COSLA conferences and faced a grilling on waiting times in the chamber from angry opposition MSPs.
The principles of the integration proposals are, as we know, admirable and Mr Neil was able to note some worthy examples of adult health and social care coming together on the ground – in West Lothian, Lanarkshire and Grampian – to better deliver services.
But the experiences for many disabled people and people living with long term conditions in Scotland are very different. They are more familiar with the “disconnects”. A disconnect within the health service. A disconnect between health and social care. Not to mention disconnects between formal and informal service provision and the statutory and non-statutory sectors.
That is why these proposals have been welcomed by many. Their aim is, after all, to improve the outcome for the end user. Previous attempts to forge partnerships between health and social care have failed and these two entities have remained separate for too long, in silos and squabbling over budgets.
As expected, opposition MSPs welcomed the principles but were sceptical about the detail. Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie highlighted the “wholly unaccountable” nature of Health Boards, causing a problem for the Government’s notion that decision making “will only be effectively delegated if all voting Committee members are publicly accountable for their decisions” and their insistence that the third sector should remain as non-voting members of partnership committees.
The long awaited review of the National Care Standards was also highlighted. Labour’s Duncan McNeil who called for new standards, underpinned by human rights, to be in place before the Bill reaches Parliament. The Cabinet Secretary committed to a consultation on new care standards to run co-currently with the Bill’s journey through Parliament. That is to be commended, but any further delay could challenge the Government’s “logical flow”.
There will no doubt be plenty of similar toing and froing to come once a Bill reaches the Parliament. Transformational change is needed – let’s make it happen.