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Opinion: GMB Scotland Secretary urges action on escalating crisis in care

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Investment and urgency needed to ease crisis in care

By Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland Secretary

Done well, it would, according to Nicola Sturgeon, be one of the Scottish Parliament’s greatest achievements “like the National Health Service in the wake of the Second World War, a fitting legacy of the trauma of Covid.”

The first steps towards Scotland’s National Care Service (NCS), have, however, not been done well and it has joined other well-intentioned but difficult policies apparently consigned to the new first minister’s bottom drawer while he decides what to do next.

Humza Yousaf’s predecessor was speaking as she launched her government’s plans for care in September 2021 but, more than two years later, there is no NCS, no fitting legacy, and very little sign that anything will emerge any time soon from the protracted, contentious discussions around it.

The ambition of the proposals cannot be faulted and the reforms properly planned and funded could be transformative for those in need of care and those caring for them. No one would argue with such a grand plan but the devil is in the detail and, so far, the detail remains a mystery. So far, the NCS is a headline in search of a story.

The most serious problems facing our care service are inter-connected but clear. They should not be intractable but when, as our survey of staff reveals, four in every five care workers are thinking of quitting, the need for change is evident and urgent.

The biggest fault-line threatening to open beneath our care service is the pay and conditions of staff. Wages are far too low and it is no surprise so many feel undervalued. That means low morale, high turnover, staff shortages, a lack of continuity and a critical loss of experience, skills and commitment. The pressure, stress and responsibility piles on the remaining staff and the vicious cycle continues.

That is why pay must be a priority of any reform and why GMB Scotland has been campaigning so strongly for a £15 an hour minimum wage in social care. It is no more than a fair wage for such crucial work but Humza Yousaf’s recent promise of £12 an hour is another apparently stuck in his bottom drawer. Pay, however, is only part of the change demanded, albeit a crucial one.

Staff must be valued more and their voices must be louder when the decisions are being made on the future of care. Of course, we support Scotland’s vision of a world-class NCS. Who wouldn’t but we must build it from the ground up shaped by a well-paid, fairly-treated, fully-trained workforce.

That must be more than a dream and more than a legacy. It must become a reality.


Contact: GMB Scotland Communications on 07738 486317 or email