Sector leaders have welcomed the government’s announcement earlier this week that they are to invest £200 million to boost resilience in the NHS and help patients get the care they need as quickly as possible this winter.
The government also made I pledge to invest £40 million to bolster social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital. The Department of Health and Social Care say funding will ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible, while also driving forward plans to cut waiting lists.
National care Forum CEO, Vic Rayner: “Though it’s encouraging to see continued commitment to the social care funding that was previously announced in July, the real emphasis here needs to be on the importance of equal partnership working between health and social care, on which the Nuffield Trust has produced a long-read in collaboration with NCF containing several recommendations. Moreover, we must see a renewed commitment to ambitious adult social care reform, which appears to have stalled as the government has narrowed its focus towards hospital discharge and NHS backlogs.”
Carers Trust’s CEO, Kirsty McHugh, said:
“Additional funding to ease winter pressures is always welcome. Sadly, however, it amounts to little more than a short-term sticking plaster, with millions of unpaid family carers left to cope with the fallout of packed hospitals and a lack of social care packages this winter.
“It’s vital that unpaid carers are included in hospitals’ discharge planning to cut avoidable re-admissions and that local carer organisations can access funds to provide sorely-needed support. The Government’s adult social care winter plan highlights how unpaid carers must be considered with contingency planning, short breaks and direct payments. It’s high time this was delivered.”
Mr Padgham, Chair of the provider organisation The Independent Care Group (ICG), said:
“Any funding that comes the way of social care has to be welcome and I hope this money will help in delivering care to those who need it and in the overall task of looking after people and keeping them out of hospital.
“Of course, it will only work if that money reaches the front line of care delivery and supports care providers who are doing the job. That means using the £40m to help recruit staff and better reward those who are doing the job. Spread across the 152 local authorities that have responsibility for social care the impact could actually be very small.
“Without sounding ungrateful, the real shame here is that the Government has to keep drip-feeding these modest sums of money into social care because the sector is in such a dire state.
“Years and years of under-funding have left social care desperate for little handouts like this whilst what is really needed is root and branch reform, proper pay for the workforce on a par with the NHS and a proper plan to get the sector on a more secure and sustainable footing.
“We can’t know what sort of winter we are going to have but with a new strain of covid causing concern, next to the usual challenges of flu, it is going to be hard.
“The social care sector was left battered and bruised after Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis and staff shortages have combined to increase the number of care and nursing homes and homecare providers closing.
“Going into the winter we are in a perilous position and, welcome as this extra funding is, it isn’t going to solve very many problems.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“Extra resource for the NHS is always welcome and this £200m investment, which we are assured by the Department of Health and Social Care is new and additional money, should help NHS leaders in their efforts to prepare for and mitigate against the impacts of what will be a seriously difficult and challenging winter period.
“The key issue now is getting the funding to local systems as early as possible so that they can use it most effectively.
“But realistically many of our members may question how much impact this will have given the close proximity to winter, and also what good this will do against the backdrop of industrial action estimated to have already cost in the region of £1bn.
“There is a clear need for honesty around the extent of the financial challenge health leaders face, not just in terms of the costs of ongoing industrial action, but in the efficiency savings they are being asked to make in an extremely difficult financial environment.
“The risk is that this money is simply absorbed to cover existing and escalating costs elsewhere, with patients seeing little benefit in terms of day-to-day care, waiting lists or performance.
“There remain serious challenges to be resolved, the most pressing of which is industrial action, and simply wishing it away will not make that happen. We need to see this situation settled as it has already gone too far. With consultants, junior doctors and radiographers set to walk out together later in the month, the costs of that strike alone will likely cost well over £200m, negating the effects of this new money, and putting patient safety at the highest level of risk we have seen for a long time.”