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Replace pension ‘triple-lock’ with ‘triple-guarantee’, NHS chief says

The existing “triple-lock” pension policy should be replaced with a “triple-guarantee” to ensure income, housing and care for an ageing population, the chief executive of NHS England said yesterday.

In an appearance before the House of Lords NHS Sustainability Committee yesterday, Simon Stevens argued there was a need to “think more broadly” about how to fund care for older people.

In the latest Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond said the government would review the pensions “triple-lock”, which currently guarantees that state pensions will rise each year by price inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5%, whichever is highest, after 2020.

In the inquiry, Stevens said “a new way of thinking” about the triple-lock would be a triple-guarantee around income, housing and care. But he denied that he was arguing older people should pay for more of their care directly, leading to less money going to councils.

“I’m simply saying I don’t think you can, over the medium term, answer the social financing question separate from the pensions question, separate from the benefits question, separate from the equity release from housing, given intergenerational fairness issues and the fungibility of funding streams between different elements of the public purse,” Stevens added.

He also renewed calls for social care to be “at the front of the queue” for any additional health funding, because of the effects of deteriorating services on both users and hospitals, which have to cope with more patients as a consequence.

Stevens supported integrated health and social care, but claimed that “the simple act of pooling budgets” was not enough to ensure either was properly funded.

“I think I said on my first day in the job about three years ago that simply putting together two leaky buckets does not produce a watertight solution,” he stressed.

The government is understood to be considering a rise in the council tax precept to fund adult social care after the sector received no additional funding in the Autumn Statement – despite warnings that the sector is increasingly unsustainable.

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