Peers call for new Department of Health and Social Care in 'bold' NHS report

Posted On: 
5th April 2017

Ministers should create a new Department of Health and Social Care to end the segregation of the two services and boost their effectiveness, a committee of Peers has said.

Peers today issued a wide-ranging report on the future of the health service
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The Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS blasted the “short-sightedness” of successive governments in planning the long-term future of the health service.

They said an independent commission should be established to map out health and care needs for the next 15-20 years and remove the thorny issue from party politics.

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And they called on the Government to boost funding for the health service at the very least in line with rises in GDP for 10 years after 2020.

The wide-ranging report has been welcomed by the Labour party and health experts who branded it “bold and thoughtful”.

Chairman of the Committee and Crossbencher Lord Patel said: “The Department of Health at both the political and official level is failing to think beyond the next few years.

“There is a shocking lack of long-term strategic planning in the NHS. This short sightedness stems from the political importance of the NHS and the temptation for politicians to reach for short-term fixes not long-term solutions.”

The obstetrician said an independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability should mirror the financial Office for Budget Responsibility and be free to identify health care needs decades ahead as the population morphs and further ages over time.

And he said: “We have heard much about the need to integrate health and social care and we think the best way to do that is make the Department of Health responsible for both health and adult social care budgets.”

A plan to integrate health and social care was a key part of Labour’s 2015 manifesto.

Lord Patel called for a shakeup of social care whereby GPs do more to relieve the pressures on hospitals and possibly become directly employed by the NHS.

The report called for a “more ambitious” three-year settlement for social care and to raise its cash in line with the NHS after 2020.

It lamented that funding in the past has been “too volatile and poorly co-ordinated between health and social care” leaving patients without their needs being met.

And Lord Patel added: “We need to recognise the NHS will need more money. NHS spending will need to rise at least as fast as GDP for 10 years after 2020.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This report makes a number of welcome and important recommendations towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of our NHS and adult social care system…

“The Tories have left our health system underfunded and unstaffed. We now need a long term plan for the NHS which tackles this chronic underfunding and invests in staff so patients get the world-class treatment they deserve."

Health thinktank the Kings Fund branded the committee release a “bold and thoughtful report should serve as a wake-up call to politicians from all parties to initiate a long overdue debate about how to pay for health and social care in the future”.

Chief executive Chris Ham said: “The NHS has been hampered by cycles of boom and bust while social care has been systematically under-funded for many years.

Andrew Kaye, Head of Policy at Independent Age responded saying: “We need to start planning for the long-term, and regular independent assessments of funding needs could play a key role in this.”

“This welcome report is a clarion call to rethink how we secure the future of the NHS and local care services. In the area of adult social care all we have seen to date are short-term fixes from governments who in the Prime Minister’s own words have “ducked” the tough but necessary action. It is incumbent on this government, then, to deliver where others have failed and work hard to forge a new cross party consensus, so that whatever new options are proposed in its forthcoming Green Paper on social care, a plan can quickly be enacted and deliver changes for older people now and for generations to come”.

The Government has pledged £2bn extra for social care over the next three years and insisted it has met the stated demands of the health service itself in terms of funding.