The First Minister has announced plans to create a new National Care Service to run adult social care in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon said the pandemic had “underlined the need for improvement and reform” of the care sector after the coronavirus crisis in care homes.
Speaking as she sketched out this year’s programme for government in parliament, she compared plans for the new service to the way the NHS was “born out of the tragedy of World War Two”.
While health secretary Jeane Freeman will set out more details of the new National Care Service later, Sturgeon said an immediate independent review of the care system has already been launched.
It will produce its first report for Scottish ministers by January.
Nearly half of all deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland have occurred in care homes.
The First Minister said the new service could be a “lasting and positive legacy” from the deadly pandemic.
She said: “The pandemic has reminded us of the vital importance of social care services, and of the extraordinary professionalism, dedication and compassion of those who work in that sector.
“However, it has also underlined the need for improvement and reform.
“I can therefore announce today the immediate establishment of a comprehensive independent review of adult social care.
“The review will seek the views of those with direct experience of adult social care, and make recommendations for immediate improvements.
“However, more fundamentally, it will examine and set out options for the creation of a National Care Service.”
Sturgeon told MSPs: “This is a moment to be bold and to build a service fit for the future.
“The National Health Service was born out of the tragedy of World War Two.
“Let us resolve that we will build out of this Covid-19 crisis the lasting and positive legacy of a high-quality National Care Service.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, whose party has been calling for a National Care Service for months, welcomed the plans.
He said: “Over the past six months, no part of our society has been more tragically hit by Covid-19 than our care homes.
“Today’s announcement of a review is a welcome signal of intent. But time is running out.
“Will the First Minister take the opportunity today to confirm not only that she intends to create a National Care Service, but that she will act immediately to level up the terms and conditions of the workforce, and that, as with our National Health Service, the profit motive will be removed from the care of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens?
“Because we cannot simply be content to go back to how things were in the care sector.”
Opening her programme for government speech, the First Minister said public health and suppressing Covid-19 remains the government’s “immediate priority”, likely “for some time to come”.
Also on the government’s agenda is a new proximity mobile app, Protect Scotland, to compliment the existing ‘test and protect’ programme for testing, tracing and isolating Covid cases.
The tracing app is set to be launched later this month.
Sturgeon said: “The app will provide an additional means of notifying and giving advice if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive – even if you don’t know them and they don’t know you.
“There will be more information at the time of launch – as well as important assurances about privacy and confidentiality – but I encourage everyone to download and use the app as soon as it becomes available.
The First Minister further revealed that the emergency coronavirus hospital based at Glasgow’s SEC, the NHS Louisa Jordan, will remain open throughout winter.
And eligibility for the flu vaccine will be extended to “everyone over the age of 55, social care workers and those who live with shielded people”.