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Theresa May warned by leaders about social care 'national scandal'

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The adult social care system in England is on the “brink of collapse”, prime minister Theresa May has been warned.

The caution came from a newly formed coalition called Health for Care made up of 15 leading organisations in the health sector.

“This is a national scandal and a national disgrace”

Niall Dickson

In a letter to Ms May seen by Nursing Times, the signatories said they were campaigning for a “long-term settlement” that would put social care services in England on an equal footing with the NHS.

It comes as the wait continues for the publication of the government’s social care green paper, which was originally due in summer 2017 but has been subject to controversial delays.

The document is set to outline options for how care and support services will be funded and provided to disabled adults and older people in England in the future.

In the letter, health chiefs said coming up with a sustainable plan for meeting the rising demands for adult social care services was “among the greatest challenges our country faces”.

“Social care is on the brink of collapse and the sector has been waiting two years for the government to bring forward proposals in a green paper to address these problems,” they said.

Long-awaited social care green paper delayed again

They said there were around 1.4 million older people who were not getting the support they needed due to social care failures and warned: “As things stand it is inevitable that this number will rise.”

Any significant extra funding for social care must go hand-in-hand with a reform of the system, added the leaders, who called for social care to be given “parity of esteem” with the NHS.

In the meantime, shortfalls in social care would continue to be felt by other public services, particularly the NHS, they said.

“People with dementia are the principal victims of this social care catastrophe”

Jeremy Hughes

They said they were “clear” that a failure to address the “crisis” in social care would undermine the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan.

“We already know that a lack of care and support packages in communities across some parts of the country has been a major reason why people are often delayed in hospital for longer than they need to be and we have now reached a point where we cannot go on like this,” the letter signatories said.

“An effective and functional adult social care system is vital for the health, wellbeing and independence of so many and it is essential for our NHS to survive and thrive,” they added.

Funding allocation for social care is set to be laid out in the government’s 2019 autumn spending review.

The letter highlighted findings from a recent report that found that social care funding would need to increase by 3.9% a year to meet the needs of an ageing population and an increasing number of younger adults living with disabilities.

niall dickson

niall dickson

Source: Neil O’Connor

Niall Dickson

The authors said eligibility for social care should be widened to include the 1.4million people identified as having “unmet or under-met need”.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which leads Health for Care, said: “Everyone’s mind is elsewhere just now, but this is a national scandal and a national disgrace.

“Record numbers of older people are being left to struggle each day without the care and support they need,” he said.

“It leads to a grossly inefficient system – the cost of doing nothing is great and the personal impact on individuals and their families can be devastating,” he added.

Mr Dickson warned that “time is running out” to address the social care problems, which he said successive governments had failed to deal with.

“We have now reached a point where we cannot go on like this”

Health for Care members 

The green paper and autumn spending review presented an “essential opportunity” to invest in social care over the longer term, he added.

“Our goal should be to deliver a settlement for social care in England that will last for generations,” Mr Dickson said.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, which is signatory on the letter through its membership of the Richmond Group, said the charity was aware of people with dementia who were stuck on hospital wards for more than a year waiting for a care home places to become available.

“People with dementia are the principal victims of this social care catastrophe,” he warned. “Our country is failing them utterly.” 

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said it was “committed” to ensuring people had access to the care and supported they needed.

The department had provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9bn for next year, she highlighted.

The spokeswoman indicated that the social care green paper would be published “shortly”.

Ms May’s office has been approached for a comment.

The letter to the prime minister from the Health for Care group can be seen in full in the PDF attached below. 

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