By Alison Keir

ONE of the most pressing issues facing Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s new Health Secretary is how we improve adult social care in Scotland. The First Minister has already promised to shortly begin a consultation on a National Care Service and we also have the Feeley Review: published in the midst of a global pandemic, but supporting moves away from crisis support and towards early intervention, and focusing on enabling people to remain within their communities.

The whole of Scottish society should sit up and take note of these recommendations. The pandemic has shown us the need for fresh, innovative thinking about how we deliver social care in this country, for the benefit of both service users and for their immediate support network of carers and families.

As occupational therapists, we support individuals and their families in a variety of settings. We recognise that the future of social care delivery in Scotland must include a shift to person-centred care, and a greater emphasis on earlier intervention, rehabilitation and "re-ablement" so people can live as independently as possible.

In the short-term this will require greater resources but investing in people and addressing these problems sooner can save money in the long-term. It is the chance to be truly transformative in our approach to social care in Scotland.

As people age or become ill, they begin to lose the ability to complete daily activities in a particular order. Once we know where a person is on their ageing journey we map out services, products and support that will help that person to maintain, or even recover, daily abilities. If we focus on re-ablement and switch to community-based support, we can relieve the pressures on primary and acute care.

Importantly, Feeley calls for parity in recognition, esteem and funding between health and social care. This is something the Royal College supports and has long campaigned for. This parity, and the accompanying proposal for a National Care Service, will ensure adult social care is an ever-present and important feature of the Scottish political agenda.

The Feeley Review makes it clear that we require a change in the current culture and structure. Culture change is not easy, yet is essential if we want a system that promotes the value of the individual: one that lets people manage their symptoms and stay in the community with appropriate supports. It is about keeping well in the widest possible sense.

Occupational therapy can be central to a shift from crisis to early intervention. We take a holistic approach which assesses independent living needs and focuses on what matters to the individual to help them live their best life. This person-centred approach would be a positive step for Scotland’s adult social care sector. As the new Parliament and Government seeks to deliver on social care, we offer our expertise and knowledge to deliver a healthier, happier Scotland.

Alison Keir is Professional Practice Lead (Scotland), Royal College of Occupational Therapists