The National Care Service will be operational within the current five-year term of the Scottish Parliament, the health secretary has pledged.
Humza Yousaf said legislation for the new service will be laid within a year, while consultation will begin within the Scottish Government’s first 100 days in office.
Nicola Sturgeon has previously described the National Care Service as “the most important public sector innovation” since the NHS was formed.
MSPs were debating healthcare recovery at Holyrood on Tuesday.
Yousaf outlined a number of measures the Scottish Government is taking to recover the health service following the pandemic, including a 10% increase in activity for inpatient and outpatient cases.
Discussing the National Care Service, he said: “This will be the most significant public sector reform since the creation of the NHS in 1948 and will be operational within the five-year lifetime of this parliament.
“In our first 100 days we will begin consultation on the necessary legislation with a view to introducing it within the first year of this parliament.
“We will also establish a social covenant steering group including those with lived experience who use our care services.”
The health secretary also said he wanted to see further, walk-in, coronavirus vaccine centres in hotspot areas outside Glasgow, such as the west of Edinburgh.
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells said there should be further support beyond the Government’s 100 days plan.
“The NHS backlog is at great risk of spiralling out of control,” she said.
“If urgent action is not taken we could be heading for a full blown healthcare crisis.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader and health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said issues in the health service were not caused by the pandemic.
“The NHS has been underfunded for years, demand is increasing and we don’t have the staff to cope, so we are facing a perfect storm,” Baillie said
Scottish Greens health spokeswoman, Gillian McKay, paid an emotional tribute to health and social care staff who supported both her mother and grandfather, who have passed away in the past seven months.
“As many in the chamber will be aware, we lost my mum in December and my grandpa just over two months ago – without the nurses at the stroke ward at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, we wouldn’t have had those last few precious phone calls with mum,” McKay said as she fought back tears.
“I am forever in their debt and I will fight for the working conditions they and all of their colleagues deserve.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Alex Cole-Hamilton, reiterated his and his party’s resistance to the creation of a national care service.
He said: “While social care is unquestionably in need of reform in this country and needs parity of investment, we do not believe that the management and control of that reform should lie in the establishment of another centralised bureaucracy.”