Plans to merge Scottish social care into a single national service have failed to provide an overall costing for the scheme – despite a Government commitment to introduce the body by the end of the parliamentary session.
A report into plans for the Scottish National Care Service (NCS), hailed by Nicola Sturgeon as the most significant public service reform” since the creation of the NHS, unveiled “significant concerns” over a lack of clarity on the final bill.
Estimates for the provision of the service put the cost at between £240m and £527m, but auditors believed that could be understated due to rising inflation.
Holyrood’s finance committee has now said fully-costed plans should be brought forward before MSPs debate the general principles of the Bill in March next year.
Convener Kenneth Gibson said: “The finance committee has significant concerns over the costings in the financial memorandum to this Bill.
“The financial memorandum in its present form does not provide an overall estimate of the cost of creating a national care service.
“Major bills should not be implemented via secondary legislation, or through business cases, which cannot be subject to the same in-depth, formal scrutiny as financial memorandums to bills.
“The significant gaps highlighted throughout our report have frustrated the parliamentary scrutiny process.”
He added: “A large number of decisions are yet to be made and no estimate of costings has been provided for VAT liability, transfer of assets and staff, and the creation of a nationwide digital health and social care record. All of which has the potential to result in significant costs.”
Health secretary Humza Yousaf has previously said the NCS would drive up standards across the sector and allow staff to enter collective bargaining agreements.
Under the plans, workers would be under the jurisdiction of ministers rather than local authorities, but COSLA, the local government body, has warned that could result in a massive loss of staff.
Groups in the care sector, including trade unions, have called for the plans to be paused.
Social care minister Kevin Stewart said the Government still intended to launch the NCS in the current session of the Scottish Parliament, which ends in 2026.
He told MSPs: “The costs in the financial memorandum largely represent investment in service improvement and terms and conditions for frontline care staff.
“Any suggestion that the figures relate exclusively to admin costs is totally false.”
He said he wanted to create a service which is “sustainable and future-proofed”.