The last few days have been fascinating for anyone interested in politics. Given the polls, not many people were predicting the final result, but as the new government starts shaping up, what does this mean for health and social care in this country?
Although the landscape has changed politically, in many ways the fundamentals have not shifted. We continue to see a huge demand for services – and as the population ages this will continue to be the case. We still need to press on with implementing the reforms of the Care Act. And in the face of the tough choices that will be made on budgets, it’s still not clear how we are going to ensure there is enough money available to address the shortfall in social care funding.
The Conservative manifesto set out that they will carry on with the integration of the health and social care systems. It is important to keep joining up services between homes, GP surgeries and hospitals so that our residents have a system that hangs together in a sensible way, and helps prevent problems before they start, rather than waiting to pick up the pieces. Councils will continue to play a key role, with the ongoing support of the Local Government Association, so that we can take this important agenda forward further and further.
Integration means health and social care working as one. We have to treat them as two parts of the same whole, giving them equal consideration, and equally fair funding too. It will be a false economy to invest solely in the NHS, without ensuring that the social care budget is properly invested in too. If this happens, the NHS will be forced to pick up the pieces of a deteriorating social care system which is struggling to provide the essential services that keeps people out of hospital and in their homes for longer.
The manifesto also included talk of approaches like the pooling of budgets in Greater Manchester and continuing with the Better Care Fund. Whilst the commitment of £8bn to the NHS is good, funding pressures on adult social care remain a serious concern. We need adult social care funding to be put on a sustainable footing and we need the Better Care Fund to be bigger and longer with a transformation fund to help make the changes needed.
The Care Act reforms will see increased carers assessments, a focus on prevention and information and advice as well as deferred payment elements which will make sure that no-one has to sell their homes to pay for residential care. There are, however, still so many unknowns about the demand for care and assessments which might face councils following the changes and we need to know that there will be enough money to pay for any new commitments we are being asked to make.
Councils will continue to work hard to bring in the changes that have been earmarked for care over coming years, but these can and will only work if the resources and support from government matches the sentiment. We all know there needs to be rapid and significant change. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe is Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board