‘No realistic prospect of progress’ for integrated health and social care, PAC warns

The government is still “a long way” from achieving an effective strategy for integrated health and social care and has been urged to create a 10-year plan for integrated care alongside the NHS’s 10-year plan.

In a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), MPs warned that despite “a lot of talk within government” over how to accelerate the process, there is “no realistic prospect of progress” in integrating the health and social care sectors.

The influential committee said that the financial squeeze on councils has blocked progress, with financial pressures and an ageing population increasing the need for joined-up care. It urged the government to create a fully costed 10-year plan for integrated health and social care in addition to the upcoming 10-year plan for the NHS.

Real-terms local authority spending on adult social care has decreased by 5.3% between 2010-11 and 2016-17, whilst the number of people in England aged 85 and over has increased by 28% from 2006 to 2016.

Meg Hillier, chair of PAC, said: “The time for warm words and wishful thinking is over. If government is serious about delivering the benefits of integrated health and social care, it must act to make it happen.

“Social care has suffered long-term underfunding and it is unacceptable that councils, under considerable financial pressure and facing growing demand for care services, must wait until 2020 for clarity.

“Without this action, the array of outputs over the past two decades – consultations, reviews, government papers – will never be matched by improved outcomes for service users.”

The report acknowledged that lots of government discussions have taken place, with 12 white papers, green papers and consultations published, as well as five independent reviews, in the last 20 years.

Renaming the government department to include social care was a positive sign of intent, MPs said, yet the report found no strategy to achieve the long-term aim to integrate the two sectors.

Hillier continued: “Government must also step up efforts to break down barriers to integration across the country. There remains a wide gap in pay and career structure between people who work in the NHS and those in social care, whose workforce suffers from low pay and low esteem.

“As I have said previously, social care is skilled work that transforms people’s lives. It could and should be a source of national pride.”

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