Few would disagree with the plan’s underpinning priorities:
- empowering a truly community health service - working with integrated authorities, social care, community care, primary care, and general practice to deliver the reforms needed for successful community health services
- enhancing mental health - improving mental health services through investments in more effective and accessible treatment
- improving population health - working across government to help raise attainment, promote inclusive growth, and progressive human rights. These can all contribute towards improving the health of the people of Scotland
- supporting clinical leadership of transformation - acting on the principles of the National Clinical Strategy and Chief Medical Officer's aims of 'Realistic Medicine'
The challenge is moving from principles to delivery.
The biggest of these is finance. Health Boards are struggling at present and are identifying significant cuts to meet existing demand. The promised £2bn over the course of the parliament isn’t quite what it seems because, unlike the similar funding in England, it includes social care funding.
The plan says: “Building on the integration of health and social care over this Parliament, we will invest £1.3 billion over the life of the Parliament from the NHS to integrated partnerships to build up social care capacity.”
Few will dispute that social care should be a priority when some 1500 patients are in expensive acute beds who should be in the community. However, funding it from the NHS means there is that much less to meet the pressures on health from increasing demand, an ageing population and increasing drug costs.
If the gap is to be filled it requires a big delivery ask in shifting resources from acute services to the community. This will involve bed closures and possibly hospital closures. SNP politicians in opposition were quick to campaign against such closures, so they shouldn’t expect any favours from the current opposition parties.
Interesting times ahead!