NHS crisis must be addressed to avoid imminent Armageddon, warns IHM

NHS ‘Armageddon’ can only be avoided if the government looks to fix problems within the NHS and healthcare and not just social care, a statement released by the Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM) has warned Phillip Hammond ahead of the Spring Budget today.

The stark message was given after early indications suggested that funds would be made available for the struggling social care system by the chancellor,  as reported by our sister title PSE, but that there would be no major announcements regarding further funding for the NHS.

The independent body of medical managers did say it was glad that issues within social care were being addressed, but urged the government to not wait any longer to solve the crisis in healthcare before the NHS’s likely Armageddon.

Speaking about the IHM’s urgent plea to Whitehall, Jill DeBene, CEO of IHM and member of NHE’s editorial board, said: “All indications are that there will be an increase in social care funding which anyone in their right mind would welcome with open arms.

“The catastrophic effect on the NHS of slashed funding to support the elderly and vulnerable has been widely reported.”

The CEO also admitted that social care was “pretty much broken”, adding that failings in this system were having a knock-on effect on the NHS, going on to say that fixing social care may lead to the country seeing “light ahead for sustainable health services”.

But according to the IHM, fixing social care would still not go far enough in improving the condition of healthcare services.

DeBene explained: “At the end of the day, the government has to grasp an uncomfortable nettle and fix the NHS too – far better to do it now than wait until we are staring Armageddon fully in the face. And, as most managers within health and social care will tell you, Armageddon is only just around the corner.”

However, solving the problem is about more than additional funding. DeBene argued that major transformational change was required, led by strong management and collaborative working across the health sector and other public bodies.

“It would be a travesty if additional funds for social care simply ended up delivering more of the same,” she said. “Crucially, we should be striving to strengthen and harness the collective power of management within health and social care, but also within housing, education, and emergency services if we are to manage and stem demand.”

The IHM boss concluded by calling on other public sector bodies, saying: “This is no longer the purview of the NHS alone and we are fully committed to fighting that corner.”

The Nuffield Trust also reiterated its recurring warning to the government that social care funding needed to be brought forward to both improve conditions for patients, as well as to relieve the enormous pressure that is being put on health care.

In November 2016, the think tank argued in a briefing paper issued jointly with the King’s Fund and Health Foundation that social care had to be an urgent priority for the Autumn Statement to try and close the enormous £1.91bn funding gap. The briefing proposed doing this by bringing forward funding provided by the Better Care Fund and also urging Parliament to reach a cross-party consensus on social care reform. At the time, this was unanswered.

Ahead of the Spring Budget, Prof John Appleby, chief economist and director of research Nuffield Trust, said: “The chancellor ignored our call before the Autumn Statement both to bring forward the extra money from the Better Care Fund, and for the social care system to be fundamentally reformed.

“Almost nothing has changed since November, except that the funding gap in adult social care has now increased to around £2bn. This time round, the government must not miss another chance to address the mounting crisis in social care.”

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