Launching its new report, the Health for Care coalition - a group of 15 national health organisations, led by the NHS Confederation - have called for the UK Government to deliver on its manifesto commitment to fix social care.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the important interlinked relationship between health and social care.
An effective health and care system will rely on NHS and social care colleagues working closely together, including helping to ensure timely hospital discharge into community settings, guarding against unplanned emergency admissions and supporting independence and quality of life for people of all ages.
Central to the report are proposals for a better funding model and a restructured social care system. Report authors lament the ongoing repercussions of the failure to plan properly for vital services and the dramatic falls in spending on social care in England, with figures showing a 12% decrease per person over the decade to 2018/19.
They also warn of very high staff vacancy numbers, with 112,000 social care posts left empty, and very low pay, status and career opportunities.
There are 1.4 million older people currently estimated to have unmet need for social care, yet without a comprehensive and properly funded long-term plan for the sector, this important infrastructure is jeopardised.
Danny Mortimer, Chair of the coalition and Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “When Boris Johnson delivered his first speech as Prime Minister on the steps of Downing Street eighteen months ago, he promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’, but despite decades of delay, the Government has not made any visible or tangible progress on this issue.
“While addressing the immediate Covid-19 emergency has rightly been the Government’s top priority, there is a real risk that allowing the current circumstances to excuse further delays to social care reform will mean that an opportunity is missed once again.
“The NHS and social care are sister services and have been supporting one another and working closely together throughout the pandemic. However, when one service does not work, the other suffers, and the past few months have brutally exposed how fragile and under-resourced England’s social care system has become.
“The Government must now deliver legislative proposals to fix social care, once and for all. A well-funded and good quality social care sector is fundamental to a healthy nation and a well-performing NHS. Without social care reform, with a clear and transparent timetable for delivery, backed up by a long-term funding settlement, not only will the NHS and social care continue to run at near breaking point through the pandemic, but they will struggle to address the long-term health and social care issues the crisis leaves in its wake.”
In response to the report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, added: “The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges strongly supports the drive to fix social care once and for all. It is imperative that we engage with this as a matter of urgency, because high quality social care is vital for so many people and has been neglected for decades. If we don’t have effective social care, we cannot have an effective, efficiently functioning NHS.”