Meg Hillier MP: Government's £2bn boost to social care doesn't address the scale of the problem
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says that the Government throws 'pots of money' at sectors of the NHS without providing a long-term funding solution.
The financial health of our NHS is something the Public Accounts Committee continues to watch closely. Over the last year and a half, we have published 12 reports on health services. Raising concerns about the under-investment and lack of a sustainable plan for the NHS, particularly in the light of the increasing demand of a growing ageing population.
The Public Accounts Committee, the Health Select Committee and the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, are united in the view that we need to bring the agenda of how we fund health and social care to the front and centre of Parliament and Government.
Our three committees successfully called for an Estimates Day debate on health and social care at the end of February. Tomorrow we have been granted a Westminster Hall debate to continue our call for action to ensure the sustainability of services.
We need look only at the financial data for NHS England trusts in the past few years to see how serious things are. The deficit for acute hospital trusts increased from £91 million in 2013-14 to a whopping £2.5 billion in 2015-16. There were huge shenanigans last year as the Department of Health struggled to ensure that the books balanced. The measures were criticised by the National Audit Office and the Comptroller and Auditor General as one-off and unsustainable.
The announcement in last week’s Budget on additional funding for social care whilst welcome, does not address the scale of the problem. The Chancellor has promised £2 billion over three years—front loaded because £1 billion is available in 2017—but the Local Government Association, estimates that the current shortfall is £1.3 billion. Even the 2017 figure, then, is not enough, and it drops off after that.
It is an irony that this injection of cash follows a 10% reduction in social care funding since this Government came to power in 2010. The latest survey of local authority directors of social care says that only around a third believe that they can deliver their statutory duties this year—and it falls to 8% next year. Even with the injection of cash, I do not think that local government can have 100% confidence that social care can be delivered.
The capital injection that the Chancellor has promised for sustainability and transformation plans may be helpful—£300 million sounds like a lot of money. But if it is spread across the 44 STPs around England, it is very little to fund what STPs are expected to deliver. The fact that capital budgets were raided for resource funding in the last Budget settlement shows a contrary approach and a lack of planning. We keep seeing pots of money thrown at different parts of the NHS and social care system, but what we need is a long-term sustainable solution and we will continue to press Government for this.
Meg Hillier is the Labour Member of Parliament for Hackney South and Shoreditch and is the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Paul Green, director of communications at Saga, agrees with Meg Hillier MP and states: 'What we really need is a properly considered solution that stretches far wider than just throwing some cash into the ring.' Read the full response here