Tackling social care crisis requires investment, not cuts
The UK is facing a social care crisis. Reform and investment are urgently needed, says George McNamara, head of public policy at the British Red Cross.
The nature of care must change – people want a more personalised and tailored service – which means there must be less focus on hospitals and much greater emphasis on prevention and community services. We know from our experience, that the vast majority of those using Red Cross services want, where possible, support to manage their health conditions, and to retain independence and dignity in their own homes.
Radical reform is necessary to meet the increasing demands for these services, and make the system fairer and more accessible. And, as the Dilnot review highlighted, there is also a need for smarter working between the NHS, social care and public health to focus resources upstream on preventative lower-level services that build patients’ resilience and can prevent further deterioration of their conditions.
Through our work we see that too often the lack of integration between the NHS and social services means patients are not getting the personalised, seamless care they need. This hampers their recovery and can result in needless admissions or readmissions to hospital.
Services like ours bridge this divide by offering short-term practical and emotional support in the community. We believe that despite the need for local authorities to cut budgets, these services must be protected, and that in the long term such investment will yield significant savings.
For example, our tailored services which support people – where possible – to live independently in the community, have been shown to aid speedier recovery, reduce isolation and promote a better quality of life. And crucially, at a time when the public purse is tight, they can prevent readmission to hospital and save money. Bangor University has estimated that one of our home-from-hospital services offered potential annual savings to NHS commissioners of £100,000 by freeing hospital beds.
Withdrawing funding for those with lower-level needs now, and as a result needing to spend more caring for them in the future, does not seem sound economics. The forthcoming social care white paper must address the important issue of investing in preventative services. Voluntary organisations up and down the country have considerable expertise in this area, particularly engaging with some of the hardest to reach, identifying those at risk, and helping them recover after a period of ill-health. Without these services costs for emergency care will rise, vulnerable groups will remain isolated, and we will have missed a key opportunity to effect real change.
Throughout recess, ePolitix.com will be focusing on a different policy theme each week. This week we are featuring articles with a focus on health and social care.
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