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Social care should be free to support the NHS, say ex-government ministers

Elderly people should have access to free social care in an effort to take mounting stress off the NHS, former Labour and Conservative ministers have said.

Similar to the British public’s access to the NHS, the government should implement a scheme where personal social care for older people is “free at the point of need”, in a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research today.

Despite the total bill for social care more than doubling to a massive £36bn by 2030— that is, if these reformation plans are enacted upon by the government— ex-Labour health minister Lord Darzi and former Conservative health minister Lord Prior have said that the move would eliminate “catastrophic” care costs of over £100,000, which effects more than one in 10 elderly people currently.

By 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 is set to increase by 30% from today, with a corresponding increase in demand for care.

“Make social care free at the point of need,” the ex-ministers said. “This means extending the NHS’s ‘need, not ability to pay’ principle to social care and fully funding the service as part of ‘new social contract’ between the citizen and the state.

“The current system is poor value for the public purse. A lack of funding has meant that social care is only provided to those in greatest need, leading to underinvestment in prevention. Public funding is only available once a person has already deteriorated – when they will by definition have much more intensive needs – rather than at a stage when their health and independence can be maintained,” they added.

Chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens echoed this view speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester yesterday. Stevens noted that more must be done in community care to prevent frontline services collapsing under pressure of readmissions of elderly people who are fit enough to go home but receive inadequate and insufficient care.

“We know there are great funding pressures in community healthcare services. But the principal focus of the NHS over the year ahead is building progress already made with local councils on delayed transfers of care over the course of the last year. The top operational objective for us is unblocking blocked beds,” he added.

The move for a “bold reform” of the current system comes after the health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted yesterday that he “cannot make any commitments about the timing” of the implementation of extra funding for the NHS that Theresa May is set to announce next week, nor could he confirm whether social care would receive any of the extra cash.

That message is very well understood,” the secretary of state told delegates at the NHS Confederation event. “We need a sustained increase in capacity across both health and social care; they both have to be part of this and are totally interdependent,” he added.

Yesterday the chair of the NHS Confederation Stephen Dorrell said the talk of health and social care funding was just “hot air” unless the two sectors collaborate.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, executive member for health and care at the London Council’s network, said: “As the NHS appreciates, the financial challenges faced by health and social care services are deeply interconnected. The benefits of boosting NHS funding would be severely limited if the silo approach to funding continues and the issue of social care finances remains unaddressed.”

This week the Health and Social Care Committee called for ringfenced funding for community care and a “holistic, joined-up and coordinated experience” for elderly patients in the natio


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