More than 70 health leaders and 150,000 members of the public have joined forces to call on prime minister Boris Johnson to take action to address growing problems in social care.
In what is being described as the largest public petition of its kind, 152,765 signatories have called for an end to cuts in social care that have left around 1.4 million older people in England unable to access the care and support they need.
The petition was organised by the NHS Confederation, the body that represents NHS organisations, and which leads the Health for Care Alliance of 15 national health organisations including the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Physicians, National Association of Primary Care and the Patients Association.
The Confederation has also sent a letter to the prime minister welcoming comments made on his first day as prime minister when he said: “I am announcing now - on the steps of Downing Street - that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”
The letter, signed by 72 health leaders, calls for:
- cross-party talks to help deliver a more sustainable social care system, backed up by a long-term financial settlement
- immediate funding increases in the upcoming one-year government spending review that is being conducted this autumn to shore up services
- genuine long-term funding alongside key reforms to help deliver a solution for social care that lasts a generation and more.
The health leaders who have signed the letter span hospital, mental health, community services and clinical commissioning groups across England.
They believe extra investment and reform of social care is the right thing to do for vulnerable people who need support and that failing to do so will result in further pressure on local hospital and other NHS services.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The level of distress being experienced by hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their carers is now much greater and on a wider scale than at any time in living memory.
“This is a crisis and it has to be urgently addressed. We welcome the prime minister’s early commitment to find a solution. As our petition shows, the public recognise the human cost of inaction and they want this resolved. Successive governments have failed to address this issue – the new government has a chance to put this right.”
Siobhan Melia, chief executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, and one of the letter signatories, said: “Vulnerable people are facing unacceptable delays in accessing the care that they need due to a dearth of provision of social care packages. This means that NHS teams are caring for people longer than they need to, placing increased demand on community and hospital services.
“It will simply be impossible to deliver the ambition in the NHS Long Term Plan to join up health and care services in local communities, and to support people to age well without immediate action to reform the social care system.”