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Health leaders urge Boris Johnson to fix social care



Health leaders have written to the prime minister urging him to honour his pledge to fix social care ‘once and for all’ and set out a timetable for reform.

The letter, from the Health for Care coalition led by the NHS Confederation, warned that patients could end up unable to leave hospital because community and care homes were not able to support them.

It said that without a ‘comprehensive and funded plan’ for social care in the winter months, the NHS would be unable to clear the backlog of routine operations if there was a second wave of Covid-19.

The letter, published on 19 August, said: ‘During the pandemic, our members have seen first-hand the unacceptable pressures experienced by those working in the care sector – whether in residential homes or in the community.

‘We are clear, as we believe you are, that this is a fractured, under-staffed and under-funded system in desperate need of reform.’

It added: ‘With the potential of a second wave of Covid-19, localised outbreaks, and the challenges of winter ahead, we are now gravely concerned about the ability of social care services to cope.’

Social care faces rehabilitating patients who are suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19 and others who have experienced a decline in health after shielding during lockdown, it added.  

Boris Johnson, who promised to ‘fix social care’ within his first 100 days in office, needs to introduce a ‘long-term funding settlement to stabilise the market, extend provision to support more people in the community, and integrate social care and healthcare services,’ it recommended.

The letter was released the same day as an NHS Confederation report that proposed reforms to ensure social care can support the NHS, addressing both the immediate Covid-19 crisis and the need to make services sustainable.

In the report, the NHS Confederation called for immediate additional funding for social care to help it deal with the aftermath of Covid-19 and prepare for winter.

Other recommendations included:

  • A long-term funding settlement that secures the future of the sector;
  • A long-term plan for social care including help to develop a better trained workforce to deliver care;
  • A decisive shift to person-focused outcomes-based commissioning.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chair of the Health for Care coalition, said: ‘Social care services urgently need immediate funding to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic and to prepare for the possibility of further localised outbreaks, as well as a long-term plan, which successive governments have failed to deliver.

‘Without this, the NHS will be fighting with one hand tied behind its back.’

Last month, the Public Accounts Committee reported that the pandemic had demonstrated the ‘tragic impact’ on social care of ‘years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms’.

In April, almost 40% of all Covid-19 deaths in the UK were among care home residents, amid concerns about a lack of PPE.