We believe that legislation already adequately provides for entitlements to health services. Universal services are delivered by a range of practitioners, not solely by public health nurses. They can be delivered by health visitors, general practitioners, midwives and family nurses, based on the needs of individual children and families.
The Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of General Practitioners and Children in Scotland are among the notable bodies that are calling for statutory entitlement to universal services. There is a concern that, if that does not occur, some vulnerable children might not be identified and could miss out on interventions in the early years. The cabinet secretary will agree that prevention is central to improvements that we can make to Scotland’s health. How will the cabinet secretary prevent an increase in direct public costs over the long term if that right does not become statutory?
We have to distinguish between two issues. The first is entitlement to care, which already exists. The second is identification of people who, for some reason or other, have been bypassed by the system. We have a range of mechanisms in place to ensure that as few people as possible are bypassed. For children, the mechanisms include nursery education, family nurse partnerships and a range of other networks and mechanisms. One of the key objectives of integration of health and social care is to ensure that all those who need and are entitled to universal services—health and social care services, in this case—receive them.
I share Alison Johnstone’s objective, but I do not think that we need to change the law in order to achieve it.