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The COVID-19 pandemic offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring about long overdue reform and modernisation of the health service, according to a Scottish Parliament Committee.

The Health and Sport Committee has said the health service has seen more rapid change in the last few months than there has been in years but that those responsible must seize the moment to implement much needed reform.

The findings are part of the Health and Sport Committee’s legacy report which reflects on the Committee’s work in session 5 and looks to inform the work of future parliamentary committees. In the report, they recommend that social care should be separated and given its own dedicated parliamentary committee.

While praising the skilled and driven workforce that provide healthcare in Scotland, the Committee say they have been frustrated by the lack of progress in modernising Scotland’s NHS.

The report says the integration of health and social care has been slow and inconsistent with many of those responsible for delivering change showing a lack of urgency or of commitment to permanent and radical reform.

The report also highlights the ‘almost complete lack of meaningful data’ capture which pervades the whole health and care system. They say lots of different IT systems across the sector, few of which speak to each other, make it impossible to truly evaluate outcomes and drive positive change for patients.

Lewis Macdonald MSP, Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said:

“This pandemic offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform and modernise the health service and it is one that must be grasped.

“We’ve seen more rapid change in the last few months due to the pandemic than we’ve seen in many years, but there is still so much more to be done. Across the sector, everyone agrees that integration of health and care is the way forward but progress has been chronically slow.

“Our Committee is frustrated that despite repeated promises over the last 5 years to modernise and improve IT systems, which would allow for better data sharing and improved service across the health service, nothing useful to users has been delivered.

“We have been struck in a number of our inquiries by a lack of leadership across the public sector, barring a few notable exceptions and real leadership is what we will need if we are to see the systemic change required.”

He added:

“We’d like to put on record our thanks to the many skilled and devoted staff across health and care services for all that they do, and for their heroic efforts during this pandemic.

“We are calling on those responsible not to miss this golden opportunity to deliver a modern and fit for purpose NHS which can embrace innovation and meet the challenges of the 21st century. It’s what those who deliver and receive care deserve.”

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