Every week until the 5 May Holyrood poll, we will be asking the five main parties to spell out what they offer Scotland’s third sector. This week, we asked the parties about two of the biggest issues affecting health and social care and the organisations working within that area of the sector. Previously we asked about social justice and issues affecting young people and the environment.
Q: How will you ensure that the third sector is an equal partner on Scotland’s new health and social care integration boards?
Scottish Liberal Democrats
The formal linking of health and social care has the potential to bring big benefits in Scotland and we will work hard to make it a success so people get the care and the treatment that is best for them. To do that we want government, local councils, health boards and third-sector organisations to work together. There needs to be a joined-up approach so that no-one is allowed to slip through the cracks.
Different cultures can work against effective integration. It’s also easier to develop imaginative cross-sectoral approaches with adequate resources. As well as proper funding, we need cross-training and secondments to break down sectoral barriers. We should also make joint working a specific goal of the new boards, monitoring and reporting on how well it has been achieved.
Health and social care integration is the single most important structural reform of the NHS since it was created – and will help ensure that our health service remains fit for the future. Alongside the NHS and local authorities, voluntary organisations will play a hugely significant role in this process and we will continue to work with the third sector on an equal basis.
Integrated boards should provide an opportunity for third sector organisations and local authorities to deliver the services that local communities need, but this can only happen if they are properly resourced. Local councils have had budgets cut by £1.4 billion under the SNP since 2011, bringing enormous pressures on services. Our plans are to stop cuts, halt austerity and invest in the future, which is the only way to allow the new boards to operate effectively.
It’s absolutely vital the third sector has a voice on this front. Often, they are the ones who know best, and whose input is most valuable. The merging of health and social care will not be at all easy, and it’s a massive operation. As such, the role of charities and independent organisations will be absolutely crucial, and must be listened to.
Q: Scotland’s richest live longer healthier lives than the poorest. How will you tackle health inequality in Scotland?
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Poor health limits the opportunity for people to achieve their potential. No matter where you live in Scotland you should be able to access effective treatment for health conditions quickly. Our main focus is to increase the proportion of NHS funding allocated to mental health and primary care. GPs are often the first point of contact for people worried about their health but the share of the budget they receive has fallen. We will end the GP crisis and provide additional support to GPs in the most deprived areas as a priority to tackle health inequalities. Good health shouldn’t come down to a postcode lottery.
Health inequality must be tackled across education, healthcare, active travel and food retailers. Scottish Greens will call for more resources for primary care practitioners. Child poverty will be tackled early in life, helping parents claim all the benefits they are entitled to, better health education and free school meals for all primary pupils. A sugar levy on supermarkets will encourage retailers to stock healthier food options and investment in walking, cycling and community sports will support active lifestyles. Quicker decisions on welfare applications must be taken to end the need for foodbanks.
Health inequality is linked to economic and social inequality, which is why our approach across welfare, tax and the delivery of public services such as education is focused on making Scotland a fairer, more equal country. Everything from delivering free prescriptions to our package of support for families and children is focused on tackling economic and health inequality. It is vital that the NHS is as good as it can be – which is why the NHS has received record funding and has a record number of staff, and why we reject Westminster’s agenda of NHS privatisation, rationing, and patient charging.
We know that wealth inequality leads to health inequality. That means we have to look at reversing economic disparity to give a fairer chance at a healthier life. Our actions to close the attainment gap, increase maternity grants and deliver full care leavers HE grants are all designed to close the gap between the richest and the rest. We have previously brought forward numerous amendments to increase the use of the Living Wage and Scottish Labour is leading the way on proposing fair and progressive taxation, with our plans on Scottish rate of income tax to halt local service cuts and invest in our young people.
The situation with health inequalities is a disgrace in Scotland. That someone could live a decade less than their contemporaries based on where they happen to live should simply not be happening. And while the Scottish Government and NHS could always do more, we really have to push personal responsibility. Education will be key to that, and it’s something everyone could benefit from, not just those in deprived areas.