Scotland politics

Scottish election: Cosla warn over social care merger

Moving social care from councils to the NHS is an "expensive distraction" which could cost more than £300m, Scotland's local authority body has warned.

Most of the main parties favour change, with Labour wanting to merge health and social care services into a new National Care Service.

Cosla health spokesman Douglas Yates claimed the policies were designed for short-term political gain.

The parties have outlined their plans for reform ahead of the 5 May election.

They are seeking to improve services for older people and end the so-called "postcode lottery" for care.

The Tories support merging health and social care budgets.

While the SNP favour a lead commissioning model, with councils and health boards working together to deliver social care.

But the Liberal Democrats said they would oppose any centralisation of services.

Mr Yates, said: "In anyone's book, £300m to change the badge on a social care worker's shirt is not a good use of public money.

"There are huge challenges that we need to address but the national parties' plans to move social care into the NHS are an expensive distraction designed to gain short-term electoral advantage."

System 'unfair'

Mr Yates said the red tape created by such a move would take "years to unravel", while staff would become tied up dealing with legal and structural issues, rather than delivering the services.

"Worst of all, there's no evidence that the public would end up with a better social care service," he added.

But Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said her party's plans were about more than changing the badge on a social care worker's shirt.

"Too many older people fall in the gap between hospital and social work meaning they don't get the care they need and deserve," she said.

"The current system is not fair, is not working and the status quo is simply no longer an option."

Delayed discharges

SNP Public Health Minister Shona Robison said: "Cosla are rightly critical of Labour's plans to create a new and expensive bureaucracy but what all parties recognise is we must improve services to meet the twin challenges of an ageing population and Westminster cuts to Scotland's budget.

"Our lead commissioning model avoids the costs of Labour's bureaucracy whilst improving services."

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative health spokesman, said his party had supported a merger of budgets for a long time, as a means of delivering a faster response time to those in most need of care.

"It would also serve to reduce the number of delayed discharges, which, under the SNP government, rose to worrying levels," he said.

But Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis, said: "Cosla's warning of the £300m cost absolutely confirms the Lib Dem argument that centralisation is not only bad for delivering local services, but can cost hundreds of millions of pounds."

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