By Iain Gray

EARLIER this month, we celebrated 72 years of the NHS, still my party’s greatest and proudest achievement, and thanked NHS staff for their dedication and everything they have done for us during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As well as underlining the importance of valuing our NHS and its staff, the last few months have also highlighted the urgent need to address systemic problems in Scotland’s care sector.

Our care system in its current form is not sustainable.

The sector’s failings have been most exposed in care homes, where staff were put at risk of Covid-19 because of a lack of proper PPE and delays in testing for themselves and patients.

This has been further exacerbated by the fragmented ownership of Scotland’s care homes and home care services, and the low pay and zero-hour contracts across the sector.

The pandemic has exposed the urgency of addressing the problems within the sector to protect the most vulnerable and improve pay and conditions.

Older people living in care homes and their families should be able to have complete confidence in their care, but the current model is broken.

My party has been arguing for reform for many years.

We want to see the creation of a National Care Service working alongside our NHS to deliver consistent standards and services.

Over the summer, Scottish Labour will engage with a range of organisations and experts to explore the potential for reform and investigate other models of care sector ownership to deliver the care system that residents and workers deserve.

The time has come for our care system to put people, not profit, first.

We now have an opportunity to deliver this long overdue change and create a National Care Service held in the same esteem as our brilliant NHS.