Care services on verge of collapse – Government must act now, warns new coalition
March 5, 2019
Millions of vulnerable people are being deprived of the care and support they need because of the Government’s failure to grasp the crisis in social care, with services in parts of the country near collapse.
That is the message from a new coalition of health organisations, led by the NHS Confederation, which is urging the Government to act. In a letter to the Prime Minister they point out that at least 1.4 million older people in England in need now receive no help because the social care system is failing. Half of all home owners are now not confident that they will have enough money to fund their own care, even if they sell their property.
The letter from the Health for Care coalition comes weeks ahead of the long awaited publication of the Government’s green paper which will outline options for how care and support services will be funded and provided to disabled adults and older people in England. The green paper has been delayed several times since it was announced in the March 2017 Budget, with the original publication expected in ‘summer 2017’.
It is unusual for one part of the public sector to argue for more funding another part, but the NHS says it recognises its interdependence with social care when it comes to keeping people well and independent – as well as the particular role a fully funded, sustainable social care system can play in supporting individuals to live full lives.
The Health for Care coalition is calling on the Government to create a sustainable social care system, arguing for a funding settlement which puts social care on to a sustainable path for the longer term, as well as addressing immediate needs from April 2020. According to the coalition, that will require secure funding commitments, a workforce strategy and a diverse and stable market of providers.
The coalition maintains that this is not the only the right thing to do for some of the most vulnerable people in society but is also needed if the health service is to deliver the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which leads the Health for Care coalition, said a lack of care and support packages in communities had led to thousands of patients being stuck in hospital when they no longer need to be there.
“Everyone’s mind is elsewhere just now, but this is a national scandal and a national disgrace,” said Mr Dickson.
“Record numbers of older people are being left to struggle each day without the care and support they need. It leads to a grossly inefficient system – the cost of doing nothing is great and the personal impact on individuals and their families can be devastating.
“Finding a sustainable solution is among the greatest challenges we face. Successive governments have failed to deal with this, but we have reached a point where we cannot go like this – time is running out.
“Our goal should be to deliver a settlement for social care in England that will last for generations. The promised green paper and autumn spending review present an essential opportunity to invest in social care over the longer term, as the Government is now investing in the NHS. Whatever proposals are included in the green paper, they must address the central issue of widening eligibility.”
The work of Health for Care builds on analysis commissioned by the NHS Confederation from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation which found that social care funding would need to increase by 3.9% a year just to meet the needs of an ageing population and an increasing number of younger adults living with disabilities.
To inform the Government’s green paper, Health for Care has developed a set of principles to underpin a sustainable social care system, together with three recommendations to the Prime Minister that it believes are critical to achieving a long-term settlement:
• Eligibility should be based on need and must be widened to make sure that those with unmet or under-met need have access to appropriate care and support.
• Any new settlement should provide secure, long-term, funding at a level to enable the social care system to operate effectively and deliver the outcomes that people want and need, and,
• Any significant additional funds must come with a willingness to reform and improve the ways in which care is delivered. Social care services and the NHS are working together to transform and integrate local care services, but they can only go so far when services are being placed under so much strain.