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The sustainability of the NHS cannot work without a sustainable social care system

2 min read

Ahead of her debate today on ensuring social care in England is adequately funded, Baroness Brinton writes about the issue for PoliticsHome. 

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS, but another equally important anniversary next month  is not getting the publicity it deserves:

The Seebohm Report which laid the foundations for adult social care was published 50 years ago. It was an important next step which set the way for society to provide the right support for those in our communities who needed care, either at home or in sheltered accommodation, or in a residential or nursing home.

Adult social care is an absolutely vital service that transforms people’s quality of life, and it is inextricably linked with the NHS. The sustainability of the NHS cannot work without a sustainable social care system.

Much has happened in the intervening 50 years but, shockingly, over the last two decades, much has gone backwards.

Many of us were encouraged when the 2011 independent Dilnot Commission on Funding of Care and Support proposed a carefully structured new integrated system with a cap on social care costs, which could enable people to plan for their old age.

Both Coalition parties undertook to deliver the proposals.  

However, since 2015, the new Conservative Government has dithered and delayed, repeatedly promising that they would sort out the social care funding problem.

We still await the Green Paper promised in the Conservative 2017 Manifesto – with a side skirmish of the Dementia Tax, a form of inverse Dilnot, which so outraged voters it was dropped mid election.

Councils have faced massive cuts to all services, including making £6bn savings in adult social care since 2010. They are still being asked to make more each year at the same time as coping with increased numbers of elderly in their communities. Worse, one of Seebohm’s key pillars, public health, has taken a double hit, with £200m cut in 2015 and a further reduction of £331m proposed.

The numbers are shocking enough, but the reality of reductions in funding is reduction in services to vulnerable adults, increased charges to clients, and distressing waits for people to be discharged from hospital to receive care in their communities.

It is also affecting our NHS minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. 

The recent announcement by the Government to rename the Department of Health into the Department of Health and Social Care on its own will do nothing without the funding.   


Baroness Brinton is a Liberal Democrat peer in the House of Lords. 

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