Scottish Parliament passed the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday 25 February 2014, following stage 3 amendments and parliamentary debate.
The Bill aims to integrate health and social care services across Scotland and provides a framework for partners to plan and deliver integrated health and social care services for adults.
Voluntary Health Scotland and other third sector partners supported amendments submitted by the ALLIANCE that called for introducing human rights-based principles to the face of the Bill, ensuring representation of the third sector in strategic planning, and ensuring a strong voice for users of services and their families.
Stage 3 amendments saw an embedding of a rights-based approach to the face of the Bill, but did not embed the role of the third sector as a key strategic partner in the legislation. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil MSP, did however reiterate his policy statement from stage 2. This states the intention to include service users, carers and representatives of the third sector in the accompanying regulations and guidance, as groups of people that must be included in local strategic planning groups.
Mr Neil concluded the session with the following statement:
“The passage of the bill…is a significant landmark in health and social care in Scotland. I believe that its passage will do a great deal to improve both healthcare and social care in Scotland.”
Members voted in favour of passing the Bill, which now requires Royal Assent. It will be followed shortly by statutory guidance and regulations and it is expected that integration boards will be fully operational from April 2015.