A landmark law passed this week to transform healthcare in Scotland does not include a big enough role for charities, care bodies have said.
MSPs passed the public bodies (joint working) (Scotland) bill on Tuesday, which will see health and social care partnerships set up between local authorities and the NHS.
It is designed to combine NHS and council care budgets and ensure joint decisions are made on how money is spent. The aim is to create seamless health and social care provision for patients, especially those with long-term conditions and disabilities.
The move is also designed to ensure the costs of caring for Scotland’s aging population do not spiral out of control.
Community services like meals on wheels or befriending are expected to play a major role in the new approach as they help keep people healthy for longer and reduce hospital admissions.
The Alliance and partners brought forward amendments at stages 2 and 3 seeking to ensure a stronger role for the third sector
As these preventative services are mostly delivered by charities, third sector bodies argue the sector should have a much bigger role in the partnerships.
Although local third sector interface organisations will be invited to take part in the partnerships they won’t have official final sign off on plans, leading to fears not enough cash will be allocated to community organisations.
Umbrella body Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland said the bill is an important step in transforming health and social care across the country but added a number of issues still need to be addressed.
Shelley Gray, director of policy and communications, said: “The Alliance and partners brought forward amendments at stages 2 and 3 seeking to ensure a stronger role for the third sector as a strategic partner alongside health boards and local authorities.
“This would build on the Reshaping Care for Older People Change Fund, in which cross-sector sign-off of Change Plans has proved a significant catalyst for meaningful change in the way public services are designed and delivered, with greater third sector involvement a key facet of this shift.”
Gray added the Alliance will continue to work to shape guidance and legislation that secures a strong role for the third sector.
Age Scotland spokesperson Doug Anthoney welcomed the passage of the legislation but said the charity would also have preferred for the third sector to have a bigger role in it.
“However,” he added, “at implementation stage we will identify and take opportunities to ensure the voices of older patients and service users and the third sector organisations that work with and for them, are heard.”
Following the passing of the bill, cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing Alex Neil said the legislation would help Scotland lead the way on health care.
“By legislating to integrate health and social care, we are setting out our rightly high and ambitious goal to ensure our public services put people at the centre of their care – not the other way around.”