Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure its plans for the integration of health and social care are underpinned by transparency and accountability.
In a consultation response, submitted to the Government today, the Committee recommended that mechanisms used by NHS Boards and Local Authorities to identify and allocate resources to the proposed health and social care partnerships must be clear and transparent so as to avoid any perception of cost cutting.
The committee welcomed Government proposals for a single, jointly accountable officer for each partnership, responsible for commissioning and managing services.
However, the MSPs warned that this approach may cause difficulties in holding an underperforming partnership to account, given this officer will remain separately accountable to the Local Authority and NHS Board. These difficulties could be exacerbated if there were competing priorities between the health board and local authority.
Convener of the Public Audit Committee Iain Gray MSP said:
“The affordability of health and social care in the future is one of the most significant challenges facing Scotland.
“The Government’s estimate of an additional £3.5 billion being needed by 2031 to sustain current services is a stark warning that strategically planned commissioning of quality social care is now an urgent priority.”
“Our committee therefore welcomes the opportunity to contribute its views to the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposals for the integration of health and social care, highlighting those issues raised during our inquiry into commissioning social care.”
Mr Gray added:
“We believe that it is vital that the proposals for integration of Health and Social Care maintain the momentum for improving strategically commissioned care, but our response makes clear that the proposed health and social care partnerships must be underpinned by transparency and clear accountability arrangements.”
The Committee’s response to the consultation follows up on its inquiry into the Auditor General for Scotland’s report entitled Commissioning social care.
In the report, the Auditor General for Scotland reported in 2010/11 that the Scottish Government estimates that an additional £3.5 billion must be spent by 2031 if systems of health and social care are to remain as they are now. The AGS commented that given demographic and financial challenges for councils and NHS Boards, the current models of care are unlikely to be sustainable in the future.