National Care Service: £1.2bn cost of setting up care service could 'significantly' spiral

The cost of the Scottish Government’s flagship National Care Service could spiral well beyond the currently-forecasted £1.2bn, according to industry watchdogs.

The National Care Service bill, which is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament, would transfer social care responsibility from local authorities to a new, national service, overseen by ministers.

When the legislation was first announced, health secretary Humza Yousaf said it would end the “postcode lottery” in the care sector.

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The bill has been accompanied by a financial memorandum, which sets out the “best estimates of the costs, savings and changes to revenues” arising from the bill.

The National Care Service Bill, which is making its way through the Scottish Parliament, would transfer social care responsibility from local authorities to a new, national service, overseen by ministers

Appearing before Holyrood’s finance committee, which is scrutinising the financial memorandum, experts lined up to voice their concerns about the Scottish Government’s “significantly understated” estimates, which range between £664m and £1.261m over a five year period, and the lack of detail within the memorandum.

Hannah Tweed, a senior policy officer, at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, told MSPs: “The key concern we have across our members is - and we know this is a financial memorandum that isn’t responding to a framework bill - but there’s very little detail even within that context.”

When asked to give their own estimates of the cost by MSPs, Mark Taylor, the audit general of Audit Scotland said: “It’s difficult for us to come up with a figure, convener, and we’re not in a position to do that.

“I think what the financial memorandum has done is it has identified some areas of cost, where there is significant uncertainty in those areas, but then does not provide any figures in relation to those costs.”

Audit Scotland has previously expressed those same sentiments in a written submission to the committee, which highlighted issues with pensions, VAT changes, changes to capital investment costs and health board transition costs which could lead to the overall budget skyrocketing.

“There's narratives in the financial memorandum about each of those things,” added Taylor, “but there's no numbers attached to any of those things, and those are all in addition to the numbers that are quoted in the paper.”

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