The chairman of the British Healthcare Trade Association (BHTA) has called for clarity on how the new health and social care levy will support consumers, patients and providers of vital equipment and services.
Andrew Stevenson (pictured) said that while action to support the health and social care sector is welcome, it is not clear how much funding will be spent on the provision of social care products and services.
The Prime Minister Boris Jonson announced last week that there will be a 1.25% rise in national insurance to fund social care from April 2022.
This is expected raise almost £36bn over the next three years, with money from the levy going directly to the frontline.
Additionally, there will be a cap on social care costs, with a commitment that no one in England will have to pay more than £86,000 in care costs over the course of their lifetime.
The announcement of the increase to NIC for providers of healthcare and assistive technology equipment and services comes amid significant supply chain challenges for many, resulting in substantial price rises.
Stevenson said: “Any new funding is a welcome step in the right direction to address patient backlogs in the NHS, and to start to improve the position for social care. It remains to be seen, however, just how much of the income generated by the Government’s plan will be spent on social care, and what will be the net effects on the provision of social care products and services – for both consumers and providers.”
The chairman explained that 20% of the new funding (£1.8bn per year) is earmarked for social care, far below the estimated £9.3bn a year needed to maintain current levels of social care provision, according to The Health Foundation.
He continued: “And there is reasonable anxiety that ever-growing NHS budgets could further reduce even the planned 20 per cent spend on social care: analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that only twice in the last 40 years has NHS spend fallen at or below planned targets – in every other year, NHS spend increased. Indeed, in the words of the Resolution Foundation, “while billed as a social care announcement, in reality social care played a minor role in a major tax-rise-funded increase in wider health funding, covering the NHS but also meeting ongoing pandemic costs.”
“BHTA and its members welcome any increase in money and resource for the NHS, particularly if it helps the NHS adopt innovative products and services, build resilient supply chains, and drive sustainability and net-zero goals. But – in the words of Conservative MP Anne-Marie Morris – ‘help for social care is needed now, not in three or four years’ time.’”
BHTA notes that clarity is needed on how consumers of social care products and services with modest homes and few financial assets can avoid the need to put a charge on their homes if they need significant in-home or residential care, even with the £86K cap.
It has also called for answers on how providers of social care services, which are already facing severe staff shortages, might cope with increased payroll costs associated with employers’ National Insurance contributions.
“Although the relative focus on the NHS over social care means that the focus of what has been announced is on changing who pays for care, BHTA and its members remain committed to everyone having access to the best care so they can live healthier and more independent lives,” Stevenson added.