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27.02.17

Hillier: NHS social care review needed by July as sticking plaster fixes not value for money

Local authorities are being asked to solve too many problems whilst delivering a range of social care priorities without a proper understanding of what can be achieved, a PAC report has revealed today.

The report called on NHS England and the Department of Health (DH) to set out a transparent recovery plan to halt the decline of health and social care in the UK, calling for a review to be undertaken to allow them to better understand and combat the serious problems facing social care systems in the UK. The findings of this analysis should also be published by July.

The report, which was released today, found that the “immense pressure” that the social care system was under due to the UK’s ageing population and restrictions in funding to local councils is meaning services are failing to keep up with demand.

PAC’s review also raised concern that the consequences of plans to close the £22bn black hole in NHS finances were still not fully understood by the DH, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and that local bodies were being asked to do too much with already stretched budgets in providing sufficient social care. 

The report said:We recognise the unprecedented challenge of achieving financial sustainability when patient demand is rising, budgets are tight and pressures in social care are impacting on the NHS.

“But the department, NHS England and NHS Improvement are asking local bodies to solve multiple problems and deliver a range of priorities, without a proper understanding of what they can realistically achieve. Transformation under such pressure is hard to achieve.”

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC said: “The NHS as we know it is under threat from growing and unsustainable financial pressures.

“Few trusts feel they have a credible plan for meeting the financial targets they have been set by government.

“At the same time, the government seems unable to get its own house in order – plundering NHS investment funds to plug holes elsewhere, and falling out in public over its longer-term strategy.

“Contradictory statements about funding from the prime minister and head of NHS England are an insult to taxpayers who deserve an honest, grown-up conversation about future finance and service provision.”

Hillier also described the government’s short term “sticking plaster” approach to fixing health and social care as unsustainable, saying that this strategy: “represents neither good value to taxpayers nor the best interests of patients”.

Responding to the report, the DH said: “We are united behind the ambition to make the NHS the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world – which also means ensuring financial sustainability for the future, and the hospital sector's financial position has now improved by £1.3bn compared to this time last year, with 44 fewer trusts in deficit.”

Commenting on the report, an NHSE spokesperson also added: "The PAC are right to highlight the genuine pressures facing the NHS, but fortunately there is in fact fundamental agreement on the action now needed.

"To that end, the NHS Delivery Plan being published at the end of March will clearly set out the NHS' realistic and agreed game plan for the next two years.”

The report also comes on the same day that PAC opened an inquiry into health and social care integration and the progress of the Better Care Fund, and how effective the policy is likely to be as a solution to the crisis that health and social care currently finds itself in.

This latest review into the stresses being place on UK social care systems comes as the LGA warned the government that a council tax rise brought in to support social care would be ineffective as it would become “swallowed up” by the National Living Wage obligations.

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