POLITICS

NHS And Social Care Faces Turmoil Unless Funding Pumped In, Warns Lords Report

There is a 'shocking' lack of planning

05/04/2017 00:18
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A “shocking” lack of planning by the Government is placing the future of the health service at risk, a Lords committee warned today.

A damning report from the House of Lords called for a cash boost to stop the NHS and social care services from deteriorating.

It warned low-paid nurses and carers are leaving the health service as they approach a decade of miserly pay increases.

The Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care also recommended the creation of an independent body to establish a 20-year plan for health care in the UK.

As well as blasting the Government for poor coordination between the NHS and social care, peers slammed politicians from all parties for “short sightedness” when it comes to health care policies.

Labour welcomed the report, while the Government insisted it was committed to a “world-class” health service.

Committee chair Lord Patel, who is not aligned to a party, was damning in his criticism of the Government, and said: “The Department of Health at both the political and official level is failing to think beyond the next few years.

“There is a shocking lack of long-term strategic planning in the NHS.

“This short sightedness stems from the political importance of the NHS and the temptation for politicians to reach for short-term fixes not long-term solutions. 

He added: “We also need to recognise the NHS will need more money.

“NHS spending will need to rise at least as fast as GDP for 10 years after 2020.

“One area where more spending will be required is on pay for lower paid staff.

“We are in an increasingly competitive international market for health professionals and a decade of pay constraint in the NHS has damaged morale and made it difficult to train and recruit the staff we need.”

As well as calling for the creation of an “independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability”, the report makes clear that unless there is a cross-party consensus on funding and reform, the UK’s health service will never be at its best.

House of Lords
A graph from the Lord's report showing adult social care has seen spending cuts compared to the NHS since 2011

Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb – a former health minister in the coalition government – has brought together a cross-party group of parliamentarians to try to tackle the social care crisis.

He welcomed today’s report, and called on the Prime Minister to “grasp the nettle on this.”

Lamb added: “There is an overwhelming case for a cross-party process to find a long term solution to secure the future of the NHS.”

One of those signed up to Lamb’s group is Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who told HuffPost UK it was Labour who were unable to put party differences aside when it comes to the health service.

He said: “The only things that’s stops us is the Labour Party, who don’t want cross party talks to try and draw up a strategic long term solution to the NHS as they wouldn’t be able to campaign on it anymore.

“My family work in the NHS they are always on to me saying ‘Why don’t you just sit down and come up with a solution?’

“It’s not just money, it’s about better leadership.”

He added: “If after a defined period of time the Government failed to deliver what has been agreed then yes, use it as a political football, but you’ve got to give it chance.”

A Labour source said the party was “happy to talk to anyone” but the “real issue” was the “chronic underfunding” of the health service.

The source added: “The idea that the Tories would engage seriously in cross party talks is laughable when they won’t even admit that they haven’t given the NHS the money they promised.”

However, a high-profile Labour backbencher accused his own party of being “old-fashioned” when considering how to run the health service, and backed calls for more cross-party working.

Speaking to the Huff Post UK, the backbencher said: “We are applying old-fashioned policies to modern-day problems.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said the Government was “totally committed to an NHS, free at the point of use, providing world-class care - and we agree that means taking decisions to ensure the sustainability of the service in future.

They added: “That’s why we are already expanding the number of medical training places by 25% to ensure we have all the doctors we need, investing in social care and working on a long-term funding solution in a green paper, and putting £325 million into local transformation plans to improve services, with more to follow in the autumn.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth backed the creation of an independent health body, and said: “Labour further agrees that integration with the care sector is a highly desirable goal, but the Tories have offered no clear vision of how this will be achieved.

“This Government has reduced adult social care services to crisis point and offered no solution to the rising problem of delayed discharges from hospitals.

He added: “The Tories have left our health system underfunded and unstaffed. We now need a long term plan for the NHS which tackles this chronic underfunding and invests in staff so patients get the world-class treatment they deserve.”

Among the reports 34 recommendations is a call for the creation of a new Department of Health and Social Care.

Currently, social care is funded and managed by local councils – which have experienced a spending squeeze in recent years.

A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies published today shows that every region of England is spending less per person on adult social care than in 2010.

One in ten councils have slashed their adult care spending by more than a quarter, according to the figures.

Kings Fund
Social care funding from 2003 to 2014

The Local Government Association’s Linda Thomas, Vice Chair of its Community Wellbeing Board, said the IFS report “reflects the historic and chronic underfunding of adult social care by successive governments which has forced councils to make tough decisions on their care budgets.

She added: “Councils have protected spending on adult social care as much as possible, but significant pressures of an ageing population, inflation and the National Living Wage are piling pressure onto our social care system.”

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