Mr. Edward Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make 403W a statement on the position of medical social workers in the reorganised health services.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I have received a wide range of comments from individuals and interested organisations on the recommendations on this question which were made by the working party on future relationships between local authorities and the National Health Service; and while different views were expressed on much of the working party's report there was substantial agreement on the need to continue and improve the provision of social work services in hospitals.
In order to provide an integrated social work service in hospitals and the community, and to ensure that staffing and other resources are used to the best advantage, I propose in due course to make regulations under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, placing responsibility on local authorities for the provision of social work services in hospitals and other establishments in the health service. Since there would be difficulties in placing this responsibility on the existing local local authorities, I intend that the change should be made as soon as possible after the reform of local government in 1975 rather than in the context of the reorganisation of the National Health Service.
I fully recognise the strong concern on the part of all the interests concerned that effective arrangements should be made for the provision of social work services in hospitals in future. I accept in principle the recommendations by the working party that further consideration should be given to the preparation of general guidance to local authorities on such matters as the level of staffing required and that consultative groups should be set up to advise on the detailed arrangements to be made in each hospital. I also propose that social workers serving in hospitals at the time of the change should be offered employment by the local authority for the area and should be given an option either to remain available only for posts in hospitals or to be available to serve in any local authority post for which they are qualified. There will be a continuing need for hospital-based social workers with skill and experience in this field, many of whom can be expected to serve for a number of years in the same clinical team.404W
The detailed arrangements will be the subject of further consultation with the interests concerned. The provision of social work services is of course only one aspect of the wider question of achieving effective collaboration between local authorities and health boards, on which I expect to receive further advice from the working party.