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16.02.17

Urgent social care redesign needed to save system from ‘complete collapse’

Social care for the elderly has moved from being “limited” to “invisible”, the NHS Confederation has stated today, adding that a complete redesign of the system is needed on top of extra government funding.

Responding to a report released today by Age UK, which said that social care for the frail and elderly is “close to collapse”, NHS Confederation’s new chief executive Niall Dickson stressed the “immediate and unanswerable” need for funding to relieve the suffering of millions of people aged 65 and over.

Dickson went on to say: “Of course this is not just about money – the health and care system needs to be redesigned – that means making sure hospital, community and social services come together to produce better results for patients.”

Age UK’s report echoes similar findings by ADASS earlier this month by highlighting the desperate need for greater social care funding, stating that by 2020-21 a minimum of £1.65bn to a total of £9.99bn is needed to properly manage the care needs of Britain’s older demographic groups and prevent the situation from worsening even further.

In the analysis, the report also found that there are nearly 1.2 million people aged over 65 who don’t receive the help they need with essential daily living activities such as cooking and cleaning, a 17.9% increase from last year and a 48% increase since 2010.

It was also found that the proportion of family and friends providing daily adult care rose from 16.6% of the population in 2011 to 17.8% in 2015, and that carers are working at greater levels of intensity than previous years whilst adapting to cater for ever more complex care needs.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said that the findings made for “frightening reading” and that the state of social care for the elderly was in desperate need of reform.

“Unless something changes the crisis will certainly deepen this year and next, and we think there is now a real risk of a complete collapse in social care in the worst affected areas,” she said.

“If this happened it would be a disaster that would threaten the health and even the lives of the older people affected. It would also greatly intensify pressures on our hospitals.”

Abrahams also went on to criticise the government’s attempts to fix the crisis through financial transfers from the NHS, and by calling on friends and family to do more, saying that the ideas are flawed and “are not enough to make up for the chronic shortfall in public funding.”

Margaret Wilcox, president elect of ADASS, described the report as both “worrying, yet unsurprising”, going on to say that chronic underfunding of adult social care could lead to many people being failed by the system.

In a statement, she said: “With councils projecting a total overspend on adult social care of nearly £450 million by the end of this financial year, increases in demand and cost of social care, providers closing, a rising ageing population and those living with increasingly complex needs, immediate, significant, long-term and sustainable funding is needed to stabilise a care market in crisis.

“Only genuine new money will solve the crisis which will only get worse whilst we wait for a solution.”

In conclusion, she warned that until more public funding was made available by the government, more older and disabled people will not receive support they need, and the 6.5 million carers will be put under increased pressure as primary care services continue to be closed down.

A government spokesman said it was making £7.6bn of new money available for adult social care/ They added that the government has gone further to “integrate health and social care than any other before it”.

“We have brought budgets together for the first time through the Better Care Fund and given the NHS an extra £10bn per year by 2020-21 to fund its own plan to build a more responsive, modern health system,” they said.

However, the National Audit Office recently warned that the plan to integrate health and social care services across England by 2020 is at “significant risk” due to progress being slower and less successful than had been hoped.

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