If there is one issue that ought to be at the top of any policy agenda in Scotland, it is social care. One in 24 people in Scotland receive funded care support, and they deserve better.
Over half a million hospital bed days are lost every year because of delayed discharges. That is nearly 1500, mostly older adults, staying in hospital when they should be cared for in a community setting or their own home. And it costs NHS Scotland around £130m a year, resources that should be used to treat people who need hospital care.
Why? Because we have an underfunded, fragmented service delivered by an overworked, underpaid and undervalued workforce. Care workers are voting with their feet - leaving for employment that pays them a decent wage. Without stressing about inadequate time to look after those in their care.
After serving on task groups, commissions and given evidence to many parliamentary committees, I know there is a fair degree of consensus about how to tackle it. While there may be some differences over how to reform the system, there is a clear consensus that the biggest issue is funding.
On December 12, we have an opportunity to make a huge difference. UK Labour is committed to introducing free personal care to England. That alone will bring around £600m of extra funding to Scotland. That is a staggering 25% increase if allocated to adult social care. The word 'transformational' can be overused, but that is precisely what this is.
With that level of additional resource, we could invest in the extra capacity, radically improve the training, pay and conditions of the workforce, end charges and invest in preventative measures to support care in the community.
We should also use this investment to reform the system.
We can start by scrapping the marketisation of social care. Too many providers, with the expensive management and back-office structures required to administer a fake market that delivers only for the few. A Scottish Care Service (SCS) could set national standards, with local delivery through a properly integrated service. That still leaves room for innovative voluntary sector providers who are prepared to meet those national standards.
The SCS would work with a statutory workforce forum to deliver effective workforce planning, raise employment standards and training - making social care an attractive career for a growing workforce.
This transformational investment will enable a new start for social care in Scotland. It's a one-off opportunity that we can grasp to invest and reform a vital service. We just have to vote for it.