Welcoming a new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: ‘This bold and thoughtful report should serve as a wake-up call to politicians from all parties to initiate a long overdue debate about how to pay for health and social care in the future. We are pleased to see the report echoes the work of the Barker Commission, which recommended a new settlement for health and social care and a single budget to put them both on a sustainable footing.
‘In particular, we welcome the committee’s clear recommendation that we should stick with a tax-funded, free-at-the-point-of-use NHS. There is no evidence to suggest that a different way of funding our health service would be any better, and changing the system would be a significant distraction.
‘As the report makes clear, spending on health and social care will need to increase in the future. Investment in services has failed to keep pace with increasing levels of demand, making it impossible to maintain standards of care for an ageing population.
‘The NHS has been hampered by cycles of boom and bust while social care has been systematically under-funded for many years. We need to start planning for the long-term, and regular independent assessments of funding needs – like the Wanless reports during the early 2000s – could play a key role in this.
‘We agree with the recommendation to move the social care budget to the Department of Health – bringing together spending on the NHS and social care into a single spending review settlement would simplify departmental responsibilities and act as a further catalyst to integrate care. We also welcome the committee’s call for a public consultation on how to remove the barriers to integrating care created by the Health and Social Care Act, although it is important to emphasise that there is no appetite for a major reorganisation of the NHS.’