Giving free social care to over-65s could save NHS £4.5 billion, says think tank

Giving free social care to the over-65s could save the NHS £4.5 billion a year by enabling more elderly people to get care in the community, a leading think tank has said.

The overhaul would help move hospital patients back into the community, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Parity would also be created between cancer patients, whose NHS care is entirely free, and those with dementia, many of whom must pay for their care, the report said.

The number of people with access to state-funded care would also increase from 185,000 to 440,000, it claims.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow at IPPR and lead author of the report, said: “If you develop cancer in England you are cared for by the NHS, free at the point of need for as long as it takes.

“But if you develop dementia you’re likely to have to pay for all your own social care – running up potentially catastrophic costs in the last years of your life.

“This makes no sense.

“By investing in personal social care so it is free at the point of need for everyone over 65, we can provide a better and more integrated care system, one that’s fairer to us all and saves the NHS £4.5 billion a year.”

With a free care provision, the report predicts that spending on adult social care for the over 65s will rise from £17 billion annually to £36 billion in 2030, before NHS and other savings are factored in.

But it says £11 billion of that increase would arise without the changes and the amount would be offset by benefits including an extra 70,000 full-time jobs to meet current demand.

Increasing income tax by 2% would fund the switch, the report said.

Co-author and IPPR researcher Dean Hochlaf added: “Over the next decade the number of older people in the UK is set to grow substantially.

“This will bring with it more people facing diseases of ageing such as dementia, as well as higher levels of frailty. We need a social care system that is fit for purpose.

“Adding a penny or two to tax is a small price to pay for creating a simpler, joined-up system in which we collectively contribute to the costs that many of us and our relatives will otherwise face.”

The IPPR has also called for reforms to deliver a “joined-up” system of health and social care provision for older people with complex needs.

It suggests a system of integrated health and care commissioners under which GPs, nurses, mental health workers and social care workers would work locally in integrated teams.

Sir David Behan, chairman of Health Education England and former chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “In 1948, politicians were brave in making the NHS free at the point of need and funded out of general taxation.

“We need our politicians today to be just as courageous and do the same for social care.

“After all, the hallmark of a civilised society is how well we treat the most vulnerable, including our elderly parents and grandparents.

“At the moment we are failing them but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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