Responding to Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s key principles for reforming social care, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“Warm words are always welcome but let us hope this speech represents new thinking in a government which like the rest of the political class has been understandably distracted by Brexit. The signs are that the Secretary of State understands what is needed – but the challenge of convincing his cabinet colleagues remains.
“And aspirations are not enough – we need a new settlement for both heath and care which reflects the reality of the current crisis and the enormous challenges ahead. A settlement that covers both funding and reform.
“The reality is that for all the fantastic work by NHS frontline staff every day, we are also letting down far too many patients and other vulnerable members of our society. We are expecting too much from too little.
“Part of the answer does lie in clear proposals for the future of adult social care in England, and proposals to fund it – the two things go hand-in-hand.
“It is failing hundreds of thousands of people because there are simply not the resources needed to meet their needs. And as the Secretary of State recognises, it is not just about older people, as around half of adult social care allocation is already spent on people of working age. The demand from this group is certain to grow over the next few years.
“We have repeatedly said we cannot keep lurching from budget to budget with short-term fixes while ignoring the critical underlying issues.
“We have taken the lead by working together with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Health Foundation to conduct an independent comprehensive study into the funding needs of the UK’s health and care systems for the next 15 years. The first of these reports will be presented at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in June.
“And we accept money is not enough. It is essential that NHS and social care systems operate as one and that needs reform. There are practical obstacles in governance, contracting, funding and data-sharing which prevent effective integrated working. The green paper and a wider settlement for health and care must address these urgent issues as well.”