Free social care for over 65s ‘could save NHS £4.5bn a year’

23 May 19

Making social care free at the point of need for over 65s could save the NHS £4.5bn each year by 2030, according to think-tank analysis.

The savings would come from scrapping ‘NHS continuing care’ as well as reducing admissions to hospitals and delayed transfers of care, the Institute of Public Policy Research said in a report out today. ‘NHS continuing care’ is social care arranged and funded by the health service. 

The think-tank suggested increasing income tax by two percentage points could help pay for the provision of free care.

IPPR suggested that its proposals would “help shift patients back into the community and deliver a higher quality and better integrated services, resulting in potential savings to the NHS of up to £4.5bn per year.”

The think-tank said the change would increase the number of people in England with access to state-funded care from 185,000 to 440,000 if the changes were made today.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow at IPPR and lead author of the report, said: “If you develop cancer in England you are cared for by the NHS, free at the point of need for as long as it takes, but if you develop dementia you’re likely to have to pay for all your own social care – running up potentially catastrophic costs in the last years of you life. This makes no sense.

“By investing in personal social care so it is free at the point of need for everyone over 65, we can provide a better and more integrated care system, one that’s fairer to us all and saves the NHS £4.5bn a year.”

The report noted that spending on adult social care for over 65s would rise from £17bn a year today to £36bn in 2030, before NHS and other savings are factored in.

IPPR also called for reforms to the way social care is commissioned and delivered to provide a more joined up relationship between health and social care. It suggests a system of integrated health and care commissioners under which GPs, nurses, mental health workers and social care workers would work locally in integrated teams.

David Hochlaf, IPPR researcher and co-author of the report, said: “Adding a penny of two to tax is a small price to pay for creating a simpler, joined-up system in which we collectively contribute to the costs that many of us and our relatives will otherwise face.”

In April PF learned that the social care green paper has been delayed due to the need for “greater consideration” of proposals.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which leads the Health for Care coalition, said the IPPR’s suggestion was a “credible proposal for tackling social care funding shortfalls”.

"Countless people and their families are facing intolerable conditions just to get the basic care they need, and this also has a knock-on effect for social care's sister service, the NHS,” Dickson said.

"Clearly solutions exist and what we need now, after decades of neglect from all parties in government, is the commitment to end this unfairness.”

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