Health leaders have warned that the persistent neglect of social care is damaging patient care across the NHS and risks not making the most of the government’s extra £20.5bn investment in the service.
In a snap poll carried out by the NHS Confederation, 97% of leaders surveyed were of the view that the social care crisis is having a damaging effect on the NHS and on patient care.
This week’s performance statistics from NHS England showed that demand for services has continued to rise and key targets for hospital care and A&E have hit their worst levels since records began.
More than 130 health leaders, including representatives across NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups, private providers and local systems, took part in the poll this week from the membership body, the NHS Confederation.
Eight in 10 (81%) of the leaders who responded agreed strongly that the social care sector needs a long-term plan and significant investment, like the NHS.
Also, over 70% said that creating a sustainable social care system was a ‘critical priority’ for their specific setting.
The NHS Confederation leads the Health for Care coalition of 15 national health organisations that is calling for a sustainable and long-term settlement for social care.
In the run up to the general election, the coalition is asking parliamentary candidates to pledge their support to fix social care in England so that everyone gets the help they need, when they need it.
Alongside this, it has launched the principles upon which a new social care system in England should be based.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“This survey demonstrates just how seriously the social care crisis is impacting the NHS. We have seen the most challenging performance figures in recent days and they certainly reflect the fact the health service is having to deliver alongside a social care service that is on its knees.
“We accept all the main political parties say they are committed to tackling this issue, but we now need action not words. And we shall be looking closely at the manifestos to gauge how seriously they are taking the issue.
“Failure to grasp the nettle will mean even more people will go without the care they need and more pressure will be piled onto existing social care staff, as well as an already-stretched NHS.
“With 122,000 vacancies across social care services and 1.4 million people believed to be going without the care and support they need every day, the incoming government must seize the opportunity and come forward with proposals that will last a generation and more.”