Scotland

Leadership warning over health and social care services

Elderly person with carer Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The number of people aged over 85 in Scotland is expected to double by 2034

A lack of leadership and planning is preventing Scotland's health and social care services changing fast enough, according to a report.

Research for the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission said current ways of working were unsustainable.

Challenges include an ageing population and financial pressures, the report found.

The Scottish government said it recognised the new demands and was taking steps to counter them.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said "This report includes recommendations which are very similar to those made in other recent reports from Audit Scotland, to which we are already responding.

"We do not believe the report fully takes into account the further £250m investment we have made in our 2016/17 budget for health and social care partnerships, or the impact that funding will have."

The number of people aged 85 and over in Scotland is expected to rise by two-thirds from 114,375 in 2014 to 187,219 in 2030 and double by 2034.

Funding drop

New ways of working are emerging in some parts of Scotland but change is not happening fast enough to meet the growing need for services, the report said.

It called on the Scottish government to provide stronger leadership and a clear plan for implementing its 2020 vision, which aims to have more people cared for at home.

The report also urged ministers to identify "adequate and timely longer-term funding to support transformational change".

Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 the health budget decreased by 0.6% in real terms to £11.85bn, while Scottish government overall funding for councils decreased by 5.9% in real terms to £10.8bn.

Spending on social care services increased slightly by 2% to about £3bn between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

'Impending crisis'

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: "An ambitious vision can be a catalyst for change but without a clear and detailed plan of action, there's a risk that ambition is overtaken by circumstances.

"Current health and social care models are unsustainable but with the right services in place, many people could avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital or be discharged more quickly."

"The Scottish government must produce comprehensive long-term plans for realising its 2020 Vision and work to reduce the barriers that hold local bodies back from creating new ways of working that meet the changing needs of their communities."

Scottish Labour public services spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said: "The SNP have had nearly a decade in power and a majority in parliament to get this right, but it simply isn't happening. They are not only failing in seven out of nine NHS targets but that failure has steadily worsened over the last five years."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: "This report reveals a health and social care system that faces a perfect storm of an ageing population, real-terms spending cuts, huge pressure on primary care services and a lack of leadership from SNP ministers."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Time is running out and an impending crisis is fast developing into an actual one. The Scottish government needs to show that it can lead and produce a solid and comprehensive plan."

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