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31.03.17

Organisations demand Whitehall ‘break the mould’ and launch long-term social care plan

Health organisations have joined together in welcoming the Communities and Local Government Committee’s (CLG’s) report into adult social care released today, which set out the severity of the crisis facing the sector in the UK.

MPs on the committee welcomed chancellor Phillip Hammond’s announcement of £2bn over three years for adult social care, but warned that these funds would still act as little more than a short-term solution to an increasingly deteriorating problem.

The report quoted a number of alarming figures, including that fewer than one in 12 directors of adult social care were fully confident that their local authority would meet its statutory duties in 2017-18, amongst other serious problems caused by chronic underfunding.

Today’s news follows a similar pre-Budget report drawn up by the committee earlier in March that demanded the chancellor bring forward £1.5bn from the Better Care Fund to prop up the declining social care sector.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, pressed the importance for a review of social care to be broad and achieve a cross-party consensus based on evidence about how much cash is needed for both health and social care in the long term, as well as where this funding will come from.

“With this in mind, we hope the government takes on board the committee’s recommendations in relation to its social care green paper, which we agree should consider the wide range of uses for which social care funding is required including care and support, early intervention and prevention, and the training and development of care staff,” he said.

Though Dickson acknowledged the potential that integration has for delivering services more efficiently and to a high quality, he also emphasised once again that it was not “a silver bullet” to solve the problem in the future.

“We strongly support the calls made in the report asking for local government and the NHS to continue to work together to shape services for their local populations,” the CEO argued.

“We have been clear that local government and health need to continue to build strong relationships and they need to be equal partners in the development of local sustainability and transformation plans.”

And Dr Mark Porter, council chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), argued that the crisis social care was facing was a direct result of inadequate funding, and that its failures were having an enormous knock-on effect on an already overstretched and understaffed health service.

“Any further delay in providing much needed funding will have significant impact on the delivery of health care– most NHS trust finance directors have said that cuts in local authority social care budgets are adversely affecting NHS services,” he said.

“We should be wary, however, of using the Better Care Fund to prop up depleted social care budgets. This will only place further pressure on an NHS already at breaking point.”

Dr Porter added that for doctors to sufficiently care for their patients, social care needed to be well funded and well-staffed.

“Inadequate social care provision can cause patients to experience delays in being transferred from hospital to appropriate social care settings,” he explained. “Improving the integration between health and social care services would help patients move from hospital to social care settings more easily.

“Our health and social care systems have been failed by party politics for far too long. We need politicians from all sides to come together to agree a long-term solution to the challenges facing health and social care.”

Richard Humphries, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, also reiterated that boosting social care went further than simply providing it with extra cash.

“It is vital that the Green Paper due later this year sets out a radical vision for the future of social care and a sustainable funding settlement,” added Humphries.

“Crucially, the government must follow through by implementing the long-term reforms that are so badly needed. Too many previous governments have said the right things but then failed to deliver – this government must have the courage to break the mould.”

A government spokesperson said they recognised the challenges councils face in delivering social care and the need for a long-term sustainable solution.  

“That’s why we’re giving councils an extra £2bn to help deliver these services, taking the total to £9.25bn over the remainder of this Parliament,” added the spokesperson.

“It’s also why we’re committed to having a fair and more sustainable way of funding adult social care for the future, especially given people are living longer. We’ll be setting out our proposals in a forthcoming green paper.”

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