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£2bn social care deficit will hurt patients

NHS Confederation warns shortfall will have severe impact on patient care

Louise Prime

Monday, 24 September 2012

A £2bn gap in social care funding will have a severe impact on patients, NHS leaders have told the Government this morning. The NHS Confederation warns in its report Papering over the cracks: the impact of social care funding on the NHS that social care for the very elderly is under serious threat unless funding problems are tackled.

The report’s authors have called for a cross-party consensus to be reached on how to address both the immediate cash shortfall and on a funding solution for the long term. They warn that unless a solution to the long-term funding challenges is achieved, the system will become unsustainable – and even what we now consider the most basic social care for the elderly will not be available in the future.

The report says that the Government must commit to implementing the Dilnot Commission’s proposals as soon as possible, as they represent the most credible and practical solution in social care funding. But implementation will cost up to £2.2bn. The NHS Confederation argues that while the NHS is already struggling to make up to £5bn efficiency savings a year, it would be impossible to save a further £2bn a year without “severely affecting patient care”.

The Confederation has in the past supported some short-term use of NHS money as “a necessary sticking plaster”. But today its deputy director of policy, Jo Webber, said: “The NHS and our local authority colleagues need to look at how we can radically redesign care and be more innovative in the way we integrate services for people with care needs ...

“Without the involvement of the Treasury, including a clear outline of how we will address long-term social care funding in the next Spending Review, we will see a decline in services and greater pressure building on the NHS ...

“The health service cannot keep on picking up the pieces of a broken social care system. If it continues to do so it will buckle under the pressure. A policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul would be very short sighted. We need to address this issue now and transform models of care, or risk paying the price further down the line.”

The report says that the health and social care system must respond to the needs of a population that is living longer and often with long-term conditions. It warns that social care cuts have led to rising numbers of people turning to the NHS – and points out that people receiving intensive care in residential settings are less likely to need hospital admission.

Michael Scott, chief executive of Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, said: “The funding from the NHS has enabled my local authority to just keep up with demand. However if a sustainable funding solution isn’t found for social care, this will result in more older people ending up in more expensive care in hospital.”

Picture credit: Rowena Dugdale, Wellcome Images

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