14.06.18

Hunt admits imminent long-term NHS plan likely won’t include social care

The health and social care secretary has clarified that long-term plans for the NHS and for social care will both happen, but very likely not at the same time.

His comments, made at this year’s NHS Confederation conference, seemed to suggest that contrary to extensive campaigning from organisations, the long-term NHS funding settlement won’t include social care just yet.

Hunt recognised that both sectors represent two sides of the same coin and rely on each other to thrive.

He also threw personal support behind the prime minister’s stance towards social care, arguing that she has talked more about that sector than any of her predecessors ever have, as well as prioritised it in last year’s Budget.

Theresa May also pledged extensive social care reform in the Conservative manifesto during the general election – albeit not entirely successfully, he admitted – and even changed the name of Hunt’s department and job title to reflect the sectors’ changing relationship.

“That message is very well understood,” the secretary of state told delegates. “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.”

But he reiterated that he “can’t make any commitments about the timing,” despite his certainty that the government understands a long-term plan for social care is just as important as one for health.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation, expressed his concern over widespread national anxiety when it comes to social care, which Hunt seemed to acknowledge. He said he knew these two sectors must be seen together as part of the same system, but repeated that timing for solving these issues “might not be identical.”

Today’s news will likely be criticised by members of both sectors, who have been calling on May to include social care in the looming NHS long-term plan likely to be announced in the next few weeks.

The health secretary’s stance on funding hasn’t been entirely positive either. He refused to share many details of his conversations with May and the chancellor, but he admitted that they have been “difficult.” There was no confirmation of whether funding for health and social care could be integrated going forward.

Top image c. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

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