Critical challenges facing the NHS will deepen unless significant investment into adult social care is made, the Royal College of Nursing has warned ahead of the government’s autumn budget.
The college issued the caution after a new study predicted the number of adults aged 85-plus and needing round-the-clock care would almost double to 446,000 in England during the next 20 years.
The RCN is calling on chancellor Philip Hammond to set aside “a serious amount of money” in the autumn budget to improve care facilities and boost staffing numbers to cope with soaring demand.
It also wants to see new legislation introduced to hold the government and relevant agencies to account for keeping patients safe.
Stephanie Aiken, deputy director of nursing at the RCN, said: “It is time for the government to really sit up and take notice.”
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“We know that there are already not enough registered nurses to provide safe and effective care in hospitals and the broader community,” she said.
“Modelling studies, like this one from Newcastle University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, are clear signals that the situation will only get worse, putting more people at risk,” she said.
Ms Aiken added: “There will be no solution to the NHS crisis if social care is neglected in the budget this autumn. We need to see something concrete.”
She also called for action to improve the local supply of nursing and healthcare staff, branding existing efforts “piecemeal” and “inadequate”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “In the autumn we will set out our plans to reform adult social care alongside our long term plan for the NHS, so we can address the challenge of our growing ageing population head on and ensure services are sustainable for the future.”
The study was published on Thursday in the journal The Lancet Public Health.
It highlighted the importance of ensuring health and social care services adapted to the demands of an increasingly older population with complex care needs.
The authors warned that relying on the informal carers who provided around £57bn worth of care in the UK was not a sustainable solution.