MPs and experts warn on need to integrate health and social care

18 Feb 15
The UK’s next government faces ‘further NHS crises’ unless action is taken to review the funding and integration of health and social care, MPs, health experts and practitioners have said.

By Judith Ugwumadu | 19 February 2015

The UK’s next government faces ‘further NHS crises’ unless action is taken to review the funding and integration of health and social care, MPs, health experts and practitioners have said.

Their warning was published today in a joint 60-page document, which raised concerns that patients would continue to lose out and the NHS face further crises, unless health and social care was better integrated.

The collection of essays, entitled A problem shared?, is the first of its kind and forms part of a project by the Social Market Foundation, aimed at moving forward the debate on the Better Care Fund, due to come into effect this April.

Contributors noted that although there had been political consensus on integrating health and social care, not much had been done about it. It said that the NHS Five Year Plan showed a mismatch between resources and patient needs of nearly £8bn a year by 2020/21, which was a ‘very optimistic assumption’.

The document therefore sets out ways in which the next government could integrate health and social care and provide the necessary funding post-2015 to cope with the increased pressures of an ageing population and continued public spending constraints.

Paul Burstow MP, a former coalition health minister, said ‘the inevitable conclusion is that the next government will have to commit more cash for health and care’. He suggested two ‘radical prescriptions’.

First, he said, the government should ‘commit to staged funding increases as the economy allows equating to £8bn by 2020’. But this money should be conditional on a 2% productivity gain, Burstow continued.

Second, he called for ‘a fundamental review of NHS and social care finances’ ahead of the next spending review, which should be followed up by annual reviews by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

‘Only such a review will establish the scale of current and projected demand on health and social care services, and fully explore the funding challenge faced by the NHS. Without this, it is inconceivable that the next government can avoid further crises in health and care services.’

MP Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary and former chair of the health select committee, said the current political consensus on health and social care integration posed both ‘a threat and an opportunity’.

He said: ‘It poses a threat because its wide use in the current political narrative around the NHS means integration risks becoming a cliché which has no real meaning. However, integration also provides a unique opportunity, as a rallying cry for reform of England’s current health and care settlement and a fundamental change in the way services are delivered.’

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