Social care system is on the brink of collapse… and could break the NHS too, experts warn
- One in three Covid-19 deaths in the UK have been people living in care homes
- Experts believe failure to reform system is a major reason behind UK’s death toll
- Of the 103,000 people who have died in Britain 31,000 have been in care homes
- Fifteen medical bodies have joined forces to demand Boris Johnson ‘drastically overhauls’ social care after the system was ‘brutally exposed’ by the pandemic
Social care is in danger of an imminent collapse that also risks ‘breaking the NHS’, health leaders warn today.
Experts believe the failure to reform the crumbling care system is a major reason Britain has suffered Europe’s worst death toll.
Of the 103,000 people in the UK who have died from Covid-19, one in three – 31,000 – lived in care homes.
Fifteen medical bodies today join forces to demand Boris Johnson ‘drastically overhauls’ social care after the broken system was ‘brutally exposed’ by the pandemic.
The report warns social care spending has fallen by 12 per cent in the past decade, with 1.4million adults missing out on vital support. This has devastating consequences for the NHS, as vulnerable patients end up in A&E needlessly and become ‘stranded’ in hospital beds.
Today’s report from the Heath for Care coalition warns: ‘The Government must fix social care or risk breaking the NHS too.’
Experts believe the failure to reform the crumbling care system is a major reason Britain has suffered Europe’s worst death toll. Of the 103,000 people in the UK who have died from Covid-19, one in three – 31,000 – lived in care homes. Pictured: Support Workers perform a physiotherapy treatment on a care home patient in May, 2020
The new coalition – which is led by the NHS Confederation and includes the Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Physicians and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges – said reform cannot be delayed any longer.
Their major intervention comes 18 months after Mr Johnson pledged to ‘fix social care once and all’ in his first speech as Prime Minister, following a major Daily Mail campaign on the crisis.
But his Government is yet to publish a plan for the sector. The report urges the Government to provide a long-term funding settlement, to extend the eligibility criteria so many more patients can receive support, and to fix the workforce crisis.
Pictured: NHS staff assist a patient outside of the Royal London hospital in London, Britain, 25 January 2021. Fifteen medical bodies today join forces to demand Boris Johnson ‘drastically overhauls’ social care after the broken system was ‘brutally exposed’ by the pandemic
Currently there are an estimated 112,000 empty social care posts. The report says: ‘Unpaid carers bear the brunt, often at great cost to their own health wellbeing. Free care is tightly rationed and the financial costs can be catastrophic for families.’
Lead author Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘When Boris Johnson delivered his first speech as prime minister on the steps of Downing Street 18 months ago, he promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all” but despite decades of delay, the Government has not made any visible or tangible progress on this issue.
‘Without social care reform, with a clear and transparent timetable for delivery set out, and backed up by a long-term funding settlement, not only will the NHS and social care continue to run at near breaking point through the pandemic, but they will struggle to address the long-term health and social care issues the pandemic leaves in its wake.’
The Office for National Statistics said there were 1,705 deaths in English care homes reported to the Care Quality Commission in the seven days to January 22, up from 661 a fortnight ago
A Daily Mail campaign, launched 18 months ago, exposed the injustice of how dementia patients have to fork out billions of pounds for care. In England adults are forced to pay the full cost of social care until their assets – including the value of their home – fall below £23,250.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘The current system creates an enormous disparity between people with some health conditions who are treated for free on the NHS, and others who struggle to access care at all and are charged when they do.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘Delivering a care system that is fit for the future, in which people are treated with dignity and respect, remains a top priority and we will bring forward proposals for sustainable improvements to the system later this year.
Voices they can’t ignore
Extracts from health leaders’ report n Miriam Deakin, director of policy at NHS Providers: ‘Without social care reform, we will see more avoidable pressure on NHS services, including growing emergency admissions and longer lengths of stay. The Government must fix social care once and for all or risk breaking the NHS too.’
- Dr Eileen Burns MBE, ex-president of the British Geriatrics Society: ‘Lack of sustainable funding for social care leaves such older people in a situation where an attempt to get to the kitchen, the toilet or the door leaves them at risk of an unwanted event such as a fall, leading to hospital admission. Once admitted, the risks of the adverse effects of a hospital stay are greatest in an older person with frailty.’
- Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation: ‘The NHS and social care are sister services that rely on each other. If you want a functioning, effective NHS, you need a strong and sustainable social care sector.’
- Alastair Henderson, chief executive of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges: ‘The aspirations of the NHS Long Term Plan will not be realised unless social care is reformed.’
- Jonathan Steel, Royal College of Physicians: ‘How we look after our older people defines our values as a nation – there is a moral imperative to get this right.’