SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes has said she could scrap controversial plans to create a National Care Service (NCS) if she becomes the next First Minister.

The Finance Secretary said fixing the current problems in the care system “may not require” a total reorganisation in the way the Scottish Government is planning.

Ms Forbes also said that should she take over from Nicola Sturgeon, she would consider ordering an independent inquiry to look at the long-term future of the NHS.

She said this would be a first step in fixing the crisis in the health service, but stressed that she would not consider any change to the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need.

Speaking at an online event organised by Reform Scotland, Ms Forbes said she would “look again” at the NCS plan, which has been heavily criticised by MSPs and unions.

The NCS would bring adult social care – and potentially other areas such as drug and alcohol services – together under one national body set up in a similar way to the NHS.

But concerns have been raised by opposition parties, trade unions and other groups about a lack of clarity in the Scottish Government’s Bill on the subject.

More from Scotland

Ms Forbes said: “I don’t think a scheme can be effectively delivered unless it has the confidence of the people that are either going to be implementing it, managing it or informing how it is run.”

More from Scotland

She added: “Rather than creating something that’s massive and doesn’t necessarily solve the core problems, I think it’s almost simpler than that, which is how do we ensure that there is that universal standard of care across Scotland? And how do we ensure that it’s not a postcode lottery?

“That may not require a National Care Service. It may require us to be a little bit more nimble and able to plug the gaps in care. I think anything that disempowers and centralises power is not going to fix the problem.”

Ms Forbes also she would consider calling an independent inquiry – to include senior NHS staff including those on the front lines – to look at the future of the health service.

“I think it’s an excellent idea to have an independent inquiry that would be looking at the short, the long term and the medium term future of the NHS,” she said.

“Obviously – and I wouldn’t in any way swerve on this one – you would need to have as an absolute foundation stone that it continues to be free at the point of need, that would be an absolute non-negotiable.”

She said any changes would need to be “radical”, akin to steps taken in the early days of the Covid pandemic, when delayed discharge was eradicated almost overnight.

By admin