Bad social care delivers higher overall health costs, MP warns

Poor social care policies end up costing the country more in the long term in more expensive healthcare. That is the view at least of Member of Parliament Paul Burstow, who claims action must be taken now to redress the balance.

“Now is the time for action if we want to ensure a sustainable NHS, and social care system, for generations to come,” says the politician, who also chairs of the Joint Committee on the draft Care and Support Bill and a former Minister of State for Care Services.

Writing on the NHS Confederation website

Burstow raises what he calls the “nagging problem of the under-funding of social care” which the national debate over how to reform the financial basis of UK social care tends to gloss over. “In recent months, the media has rightly focused on Dilnot′s proposals for how we reform the way we pay for care,” writes Burstow, Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park. “Although the extent of the gap can be – and is – disputed, it would be foolish of anyone to deny that we have a growing crisis on our hands.”

Burstow cites a number of authorities for his analysis. These range from a recent London local government report claiming the capital will be facing a £907m adult social care funding gap by 2018 to the 2002 Wanless Commission report. He also quotes the 1997 study by spending watchdog the Audit Commission. All together, he says, these sources confirm a picture of under-funded social care that results in people being “shunted” into “more costly healthcare”.

“As one person put it to me at a recent conference, ‘By ignoring social care you place all the burden onto the NHS until it reaches breaking point,′” he claims. “So if we don′t want to place any more pressure on the NHS, we must place social care at the forefront of our minds.”

‘Not off the starting blocks′

Burstow points out that the number of people living with chronic illness is growing but that the number of hospital admissions is simultaneously rising and the demand for formal care is also on the increase.

These factors, he says, in turn lead to “ever more resources” being spent on high cost crisis interventions at the expense of what he calls “low cost preventative services that could have reduced the pressures in the first place”.

As a result, he believes the government needs to better understand the financial interdependencies between health and care – pointing out that over a decade on, the Wanless Review called for improved financial models and a review of social care funding, “an exercise that is yet to get off the starting blocks”. “This kind of exercise must now be undertaken by the Treasury if it is to gain any traction inside government,” he concludes.