Three think tanks have urged the Government to address the “critical state of social care” in the forthcoming Autumn Statement on 23 November.
In a joint plea to ministers, the Nuffield Trust, King's Fund and Health Foundation said the sector is facing a £1.9bn funding shortfall and has called on the Government to consider additional NHS funding, or “to be clear about the consequences of patient care.”
Richard Humphries, assistant director for policy at The King's Fund, said: “Cuts to social care funding are leaving older and disabled people reliant on an increasingly threadbare local authority safety net.
“For many, the care they get is based not on what they need but on what they can afford and where they live. More people are left stranded in hospital. This Government has committed to creating a country which works for everyone, and they now need to match this with action by using the Autumn Statement to address the critical state of social care.”
The think tanks urge the Government to bring forward increases in social care funding planned for later in the parliament through the Better Care Fund to next year, warning that without this, thousands more older and disabled people will be denied access to the care they need, with severe consequences for the NHS.
They also warn that the planned increase in the Department of Health's budget between 2015/16 and 2020/21 will not be enough to meet rising demand for services, maintain standards of NHS care and deliver the changes to services set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View.
The briefing warns that the pressures on the NHS will peak in 2018/19 and 2019/20, when there is almost no planned growth in real terms funding.
Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: ‘'On too many occasions over the last few years the approach to funding for the NHS and care system has been to rob Peter to pay Paul.
“Social care cut to protect the NHS, budgets to train new doctors and nurses reduced to fund care now, capital budgets raided to meet day-to-day costs. It is absolutely clear that this is not sustainable and has undermined the drive to improve efficiency. While the pressures on the health service are very real, the case to prioritise social care funding in the Autumn Statement is compelling.”
John Appleby, director of research and chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said: “After years of austerity, by the middle of this parliament we will start to see the amount of NHS money per person actually fall in real terms. In this context, providing high-quality healthcare that meets the needs of a growing and ageing population will put the NHS under enormous pressure.
“We are likely to see this expressed through an explosion in waiting lists, patients being denied new drugs, or hospitals going even further into the red. These would neither be desirable for patients nor for the Government: action is needed."
Responding to calls for the Government to address the social care funding gap, chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: “Councils, care providers, charities, the NHS and the public are all united more than ever around the need for central Government to fully fund adult social care.
“Unless social care is properly funded, there is a real risk to the quality and safety of care, and being able to meet basic needs such as ensuring people are washed and dressed or helped out of bed.
“The Government must use the Autumn Statement to provide councils with the funding to ensure we have a fair care system which keeps people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community.”