Families should be given a “local care guarantee” which stops people being forced to access health services far from their communities, according to a Scottish Tory blueprint.
Leader Douglas Ross set out the plan as he raised concerns with the SNP Government’s proposal for a national care service.
Tories say the SNP idea risks being overly centralised by stripping local authorities of the responsibility for care.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says it will improve the system across Scotland.
At the Tory party conference in Aberdeen, Mr Ross said the sector has to change.
Many of the problems in care homes predate the Covid crisis, he said.
His own policy plan, published by Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane, criticised the SNP’s legacy of major reform programmes including college mergers, Police Scotland and “botched” IT projects.
“In contrast to the SNP Government’s plans – which risk creeping centralisation of care – we would offer a local care guarantee to ensure care and support is delivered as close as possible to those who need it, especially in rural or island communities,” the blueprint states.
“It is precisely because we champion localism that we do not lay down a prescriptive model here, but simply recommend the essential components of high-quality local care.”
Tories say extra money raised by the Health and Social Care Levy is an opportunity to change the system.
As well as a local care guarantee, the party recommends giving the Care Inspectorate more power to drive up standards.
Mr Ross focused on healthcare in his speech to the party’s conference in Aberdeen on Saturday.
He recounted how his wife, Krystle, was unable to give birth at their local hospital, Dr Gray’s in Elgin.
She was rushed to Aberdeen because the hospital in Moray had been downgraded.
“James was born a few hours after we arrived and is a thriving wee lad,” he said.
“But not everyone is so lucky.”
‘Gave birth in a lay-by’
He highlighted other cases, such as Alexandra Naylor who gave birth in a lay-by when it became clear she wouldn’t reach Aberdeen in time.
Mr Ross added: “Caithness women face a longer journey, on a far poorer road, to give birth in Inverness.
“This simply cannot be allowed to continue, yet the SNP show no signs of any positive action on these crucial services.”
‘Terrified’ of national care service
Dr Gulhane, who is also a GP, said he is “terrified” of the SNP’s plan.
He said: “They’re covering the past failures by having Covid as their response, it’s unacceptable.
“Their plans are non-existent on how we’re going to recover.”
He continued: “I’m terrified of the National Care Service.
“I’m terrified of the bad delivery of this government, who doesn’t trust anyone.
“They’re anti-business, they’re anti-organisations. They’re all about power and control and centralisation.”
Asked to comment on the Tory claims, SNP Depute Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Douglas Ross’s entire leadership of the Scottish Conservative Party has been characterised by flip-flopping and negativity.
“It looks like we can now add lack of self-awareness to that list as well. The SNP will continue working hard for the people of Scotland – and leave Douglas Ross to fight it out for third place.”