Plans to overhaul the social care system in England outlined today have been dismissed as “cold comfort” by the Royal College of Nursing.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter criticised the government’s failure to agree a funding system for social care, despite committing to national standards on quality and who is eligible for care.
The proposals, set out in a white paper on social care, say the government accepts in principle a cap on care costs, and will work to introduce a system of loans from councils to pay for residential care by April 2015.
But the proposals stopped short of committing to how much a patient would have to pay, unless it could find an extra £2.2bn a year to fund the scheme.
Dr Carter said: “While there is much to welcome in these proposals, nurses will be particularly disappointed that the government has failed to tackle the critical issue of social care funding.
“Accepting the need for a cap on the amount individuals contribute to costs without any timescale for implementation will be cold comfort to service users and patients.
“It is nursing staff who are currently dealing with the pressures of delayed transfers between hospital and community settings, restriction on services and confusion over who pays for what.
“We are particularly concerned that at the moment many people face a ‘revolving door’ in care. For some this means ending up back in hospital soon after discharge as the support simply does not exist to care for them properly in the community.”
Speaking in Parliament today, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the proposals set out as “important steps forward”, before dismissing the white paper as only “half a plan”, which “failed the credibility test” without a funding settlement.
“The proposals he has set out today are in danger of appearing meaningless and may in fact raise false hopes amongst older people and their families,” he said.