MPs have warned that the absence of social care reform could destabilise government plans for integration with the NHS.
In a new report, the Health and Social Care Committee says the absence of a fully funded, 10-year plan for social care has the potential to destabilise White Paper proposals for Integrated Care Systems and undermine their success.
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “We broadly support the proposed changes provided the new Integrated Care Systems are held accountable for the quality and safety of care delivered through transparent CQC assessments. But we remain concerned about glaring omissions, including the lack of social care reform, and a much-needed overhaul of workforce planning.
“If such issues are addressed the government has an opportunity to deliver a post-pandemic watershed ‘1948 moment’ for the health and care system, matching the significance of the year the NHS was founded. But if they are not, it will be a wasted opportunity to deliver the truly integrated care required by an ageing population.”
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, welcomed the MPs’ findings, adding the proposals for health and social care reform were just “baby steps” towards care reform.
Mike said: “We need to see urgent, root and branch reform of social care with an injection of funding to create a fit for purpose, sustainable social care sector that has parity with NHS healthcare in terms of status and standing.
“Only when that happens will we be able to move towards integration and at that point we need to see a single body delivering both NHS healthcare and social care and not the central and local authority split we have at the moment.
“At the moment we are talking about redecorating the house whilst the roof is still leaking.”
Hugh Alderwick, Head of Policy for the Health Foundation, said the report had highlighted “major gaps” in the government’s reform agenda.
“The enduring silence on social care reform is deafening and this week’s Queen’s Speech provided no further detail,” Hugh said. “The need for fundamental reform of adult social care in England has been well articulated for decades, yet successive governments have ducked reform and people and their families continue to suffer unnecessarily. Delaying any further means government choosing to prolong major public policy failure.
“We support the Committee’s recommendation for a clause in the forthcoming Health and Care Bill to improve workforce planning in health and social care by publishing independent and transparent projections of how many staff we need for the future. Workforce issues in the NHS and social care are chronic, yet the Government’s White Paper said almost nothing about how they will be addressed. Legislation must be combined with a long-term plan for supporting and expanding the workforce and additional funding to deliver it.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Health and Care White Paper includes a range of targeted measures on social care that will ensure improvements made to the system addressing the impacts from COVID-19 are fully embedded.
“Throughout the pandemic we have sought to protect the elderly and those receiving social care, and have provided almost £1.8 billion for the sector, including infection prevention and control measures. This will remain our priority.
“We have pledged to improve social care to give everyone who needs care the dignity and security they deserve and are committed to bringing forward a long-term plan to reform the social care system later this year.”