The NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out how the £20.5 billion budget settlement for the NHS will be spent over the next 5 years, doesn’t do enough to solve the issues in social care, according to leading industry figures.
In general terms the plan includes measures the government says will help prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases, and ensure better access to mental health services for adults and children, primarily through improvements to out-of-hospital care supporting primary medical and community health services.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The NHS long term plan, backed by a historic commitment of an extra £20.5 billion a year from taxpayers, marks an important moment not just for the health service but for the lives of millions of patients and hardworking NHS staff across the country.
“Whether it’s treating ever more people in their communities, using the latest technology to tackle preventable diseases, or giving every baby the very best start in life, this government has given the NHS the multi-billion-pound investment needed to nurture and safeguard our nation’s health service for generations to come.”
However, commenting on the publication of the NHS long-term plan, George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said: “One of the biggest health challenges we face today is how best to care for an ageing population. Tragically, some of the most vulnerable older people are having to wait too long to see a doctor, with increasing waiting times for operations and other healthcare, and many are marooned in hospital due to an absence of suitable social care in the community. Put bluntly, too many older people are not getting the healthcare they want and need in later life.
“The NHS long-term plan must clearly set out the necessary funding and reforms to ensure older people can live healthier lives for longer. It is absolutely right to focus on prevention, but until the government addresses the crisis in social care the success of the NHS plan will be severely limited. Health and social care go hand-in-hand. Failure to do both will put the sustainability of one of our national treasures at risk and push more older people into crisis, putting avoidable pressures on an already stretched NHS.”
Meanwhile, Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK, said: “The NHS 10 Year Plan is a welcome step in the right direction and it is pleasing to note that there is attention paid to preventing long-term health conditions such as dementia.
“However in order to put weight behind these proposals, there needs to be a serious commitment to providing more access to skilled professionals, such as dementia specialist Admiral Nurses, as well as moving away from cuts which have long marred the public health landscape.
“The long-awaited adult social care Green Paper also represents the missing puzzle piece in this area. It is all well and good to focus on preventing conditions like dementia but we need to give due regard to people who are facing health challenges in the here and now. This is where social care comes in to help people through community support and timely help in the home. Allowing more access to funding for social care will undoubtedly help to relieve the pressures on a struggling NHS, ultimately leading to a more joined-up health and social care landscape. This is what we’re committed to doing at Dementia UK.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “So far as older people are concerned this new NHS Plan rightly focuses on improving the support for them at home, whether they are living in their own accommodation or a care home. We hope this means that over time, fewer older people will end up in hospital or if they do have to be admitted that they get out again speedily, increasing their chances of making a good recovery.
“Older people who are unwell or whose health is fragile often need social care to help them with daily essentials like washing and eating, so this Plan will only really work if there’s a lot more high quality social care on offer than is the case today. It is not in the gift of the NHS to sort out the mess social care is in, this is the Government’s responsibility, so the onus is now on Ministers to get the job done. In particular, the Chancellor must agree to fund social care properly because chronic underfunding, over many years, is the root cause of the pretty terrible state social care is now in.”
“Older people have a lot to gain from this NHS Plan and it will be terribly sad, as well as a shocking waste of public money, if ongoing Ministerial dithering on Social Care means the very positive initiatives the Plan sets out to help them cannot be put into effect”.