Founding principles of NHS should apply to elderly care, says Leonard

The Scottish Government has been challenged to 'learn the lessons of 1948' and apply the principles that led to the creation of the NHS to other key services.

Scottish Labour party leader Richard Leonard made the plea as he led a members debate in Holyrood ahead of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said it was time to “think big and act radically”, and apply the “enduring principles” of the National Health Service to areas such as social care, transport and housing.

He made the plea as he led a members’ debate in Holyrood ahead of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS.

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It came into being in 1948, thanks to Clement Attlee’s Labour government which included Aneurin Bevan as health secretary.

Mr Leonard hailed it as “practical socialism in action”, and said the introduction of free health care at the point of need meant “medical care was no longer connected to ability to pay”.

The Labour leader said: “It is a powerful and enduring idea that should not be limited in its application to our National Health Service but would be well applied in responding to growing demands to provide care for the elderly, where we are seeing commercial principles and a market-based approach pulling us into a crisis.

“And to social care, so we can support the human rights of disabled people, remove the profit motive and pay carers a proper rate of pay.”

He went on to state such principles could also be applied to “public transport too and in the provision of energy supply and the distribution of housing”, adding that the “possibilities are limitless”.

Mr Leonard said: “In 2018 it is time we started to learn the lessons of 1948. The National Health Service was created when the country was almost bankrupt. It is time we started to think big and act radically.

“It is time that we once again applied those enduring and timeless principles to our times.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government firmly believes in the importance of keeping the NHS true to its founding principle of being publicly owned, publicly operated and free at the point of need.

“The integration of health and social care is the biggest reform to the system in our health service’s history. We are transforming the way we deliver social care services, and investing in the sector.

“Free Personal Care already benefits around 78,000 older and vulnerable people in Scotland and we have legislated to extend to all adults who are assessed as needing it by April 1 2019.

“The Scottish Government is focused on addressing the underlying causes that drive health inequalities, which has income inequality at its heart, and are putting together a package of bold measures to help people live longer healthier lives.

“Measures such as investing in affordable housing, providing free school meals and continuing commitments like free prescriptions and free personal care, are the right approach to take, and we are investing more than £100 million every year to mitigate the UK Government’s welfare cuts.”