If the NHS is to survive Brexit and another 70 years serving the British people it must urgently prioritise social care, a senior NHS boss has warned.
Dame Julie Moore, the chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), told HuffPost UK that in order to protect the health system, which she described as “one of the best things this nation has ever done”, the social care crisis must be tackled.
“If not, then the healthcare system grounds to a halt,” she said. “At the moment, we have several hundred patients in our beds which don’t need to be there, but they don’t have anywhere else to go. That can’t be right - it’s not the right place for people.”
Last month, MPs warned that the social care system is under “unsustainable strain”, with the deficit in funding expected to reach up to £2.5bn by 2019.
“Too many people are being left without the care and support they need and it is time for decisions to be made about how the costs are shared,” Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said at the time.
But Moore says a way to address the problem is to make social care a “valuable occupation” that is attractive to workers, especially after Brexit.
“Why do we value kicking a ball more than caring in a skilled way for an elderly person who has a lot of needs?” Moore, a former nurse, asked the day after the England team made it through to the quarter finals of the World Cup.
“Caring is not a minimum wage occupation – it’s highly skilled,” she said. “There’s also a lot of communication and softer skills that people need to do that.”
Moore worked as a nurse for a decade, before giving it up to pursue management in the mid 1990s. She was then appointed chief executive of UHB in 2006.
During her tenure, it has become much harder to hire staff for health and social care roles – and Brexit is to blame, according to Moore.
“We did have large recruitment drives in Europe – we were going to Romania and we had about 20 people lined up to interview,” she said.
But after the result of the EU referendum was announced, all but one of the applicants withdrew their applications.
“That’s what worries most about the future - workforce issues,” Moore added. “We are going to need more and more people, not fewer. And we are likely going to have access to fewer.”
The Home Office recently announced that foreign medics would be excluded from the government’s cap on skilled migrants from outside the EU.
But Brexit and social care are far from the only problems facing the NHS in Birmingham. Midland Met Hospital, which was being built close to the city, was supposed to open in October 2018.
However, after construction giant Carillion collapsed earlier this year, bosses have admitted that it could be as late as 2022 before the hospital opens its doors.