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06.01.17

Committee chairs urge PM to reach agreement on health and social care funding

Three House of Commons select committee chairs have urged the prime minister, Theresa May, to reach a cross-party agreement on the future of health and social care funding in a letter sent today.

The letter, sent by the chairs of the Health, Public Accounts, and Communities and Local Government Committees, argues the need for a “political consensus” to solve the country’s health and social care crisis, calling on May to invite all parties to participate in an urgent review.

The letter follows the prime minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee before Christmas to discuss health and social care funding,  when she cast doubt on initial cross-party involvement on the basis that it had previously not been fruitful, but did not rule the option out.

“We were encouraged by your recognition at the Liaison Committee that everyone has a part to play in finding a sustainable way of ensuring social care provision in the future. You also accepted the need for a review to find a way of funding social care sustainably for the long term,” the letter from MPs Dr Sarah Wollaston, Meg Hillier, and Clive Betts reads.

“We believe that can best be achieved if there is cross-party consensus, and therefore urge you to invite all parties to become involved in a review, which should begin as soon as possible. Given the scale of rising demand, this immense challenge will face whichever Party is in government over the coming decades.”

The committee chairs have stressed that the consensus should be reached swiftly so that the agreed approach can be reflected in the next round of government spending.

The chairs also emphasised the importance of integrating health and social care funding, after May said that the government was “focused on social care” but would look at “how it interacts with health” during the Liaison Committee hearing.

“We also feel that the ongoing separation of health and social care is creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies. Any review should cover the two systems,” the letter comments.

The King’s Fund agreed with the content of the letter, saying that a new settlement for health and social care is “long overdue” after it issued a joint statement on the matter with the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation ahead of last year’s Autumn Statement.

“Hard-pressed NHS staff are becoming the shock absorbers as pressures on the health service continue to grow. These will peak in 2018-19 and 2019-20, when there is almost no planned growth in real-terms NHS funding,” said Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund.

“For too long there has been a lack of political leadership on these issues. We agree with the committee chairs that a political consensus that puts health and social care funding on a sustainable footing is sorely needed. Without a consensus, patients and people in need will suffer.”

Ham stressed the need for a single, ring-fenced budget for the NHS and social care paid for by increased public funding, building on the recommendations made in the Barker Commission.

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