Social Care Fix 'Delays Crisis From Xmas to Easter'

Peter Russell

October 02, 2018

A commitment to spend an extra £240 million on social care in England this winter has been derided as a 'sticking plaster', a 'let down', and an inability to make up for years of budget cuts.

The spending boost was announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, during his speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

His announcement was designed to ease pressure on the NHS this winter by freeing up hospital beds and allowing more people to be cared for elsewhere.

However, one charity said he had failed to understand that the social care system needed longer term funding that extended beyond Christmas and the New Year.
 

Winter Crisis

The winter months traditionally put hospitals and the rest of the health and social care system under strain. Figures for the NHS in England showed that January 2018 was one of the most difficult months ever documented. Record numbers of seriously ill patients faced delays waiting for a bed, despite cancellations of routine appointments to ease pressure on the system.

This winter's extra money, which will be channelled through local authorities, could buy 71,500 domestic care packages or 86,500 "reablement" packages, according to Mr Hancock. He said: "We'll use the money to get people who don't need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back in their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds, and help people who really need it get the hospital care they deserve."

However, Mr Hancock went on to say that money alone had to go hand-in-hand with health and social care service reform "to make sure that it's always there".
 

A 'Short-term Fix'

The British Medical Association (BMA) described Mr Hancock's announcement on extra spending for health and social care as "a short-term fix" that would not make up for the 8% real terms cut in adult social care funding since 2010. 

"BMA research has shown that the typical 'winter crisis' is now an all-year crisis," said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair. "Indeed, recent data revealed this summer was the worst on record for A&E performance, with more patients than ever waiting for longer than 12 hours."

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "With social care in long-term crisis, any additional funding is of course welcome. But yet another short-term top-up for social care shows how bad things have got, and how urgently we need a sustainable long-term solution to the care crisis."

The Alzheimer's Society said it welcomed the Government's recognition that winter funding for social care would have a knock-on effect for the health service. However, Sally Copley, the charity's director of policy, campaigns and partnerships, said: "The social care system is 'not just for Christmas' and people with dementia, as its biggest recipients, are experiencing the emotional and economic cost all year round.

"This money may stop some people with dementia spending Christmas stuck on a ward, but the limited and poor quality care available at home will mean they’re back in hospital before Easter."

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