Social care cuts ”will cause huge problems”

Even with a protected budget, the health service will be hit so hard by spending cuts that there will be major reductions in social care and this will cause problems for the NHS, the NHS Confederation has said.

Acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said that the UK faced very serious financial issues and there had to be frank and honest debate about the effect of decisions that were being taken. The NHS may have some limited protection to its budget but it still faced a potent cocktail of financial pressures.

“With councils facing 25 per cent cuts, we are deeply worried about the potential impact on social care,” Edwards said. “It seems inevitable that we will see a significant withdrawal of support from some of the most vulnerable people in our society – before long we could see a majority of councils only supplying services to those with the most critical of needs.

“At a superficial level, this may ease pressure on the social care budget. But the needs of these vulnerable people and their families will not simply disappear – if needs are not met by social care, people will turn to the NHS. Some will present as emergencies in A&E departments and GP surgeries, others will find themselves trapped in hospital unable to get home, blocking the bed from someone else who badly needs it. Everybody loses: the users of services, those who care for them, the taxpayer and the NHS. It’s a classic false economy.”

Edwards went on: “We need to deal with funding increases which while protected will not be adequate to deal with growing demand, along with one of the biggest reorganisations in the NHS’s history and the pre-existing need to find between £15-20bn of savings. The NHS is ready to meet the challenge of these pressures but we need to be realistic. It is going to require every reserve of skill and expertise to ensure any impact on the quality and availability of patient care is minimised.

“Cutting management costs is part of the answer, but only a small part. We are already on course to cut management costs by a hefty 45 per cent – quite a task during a major transition. Even this drastic action will save just £0.85bn of the £20bn we need to find. So I am afraid that there are no pain-free choices if we are going to make all this happen.”