NHS will collapse without urgent reform warns Saga
The NHS and social care services will “collapse” unless the Coalition’s health reforms are enacted because of growing demand from elderly people, Saga and Age UK have warned.
Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said stalling reform was “not an option” due to growing numbers of the very old and frail. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, added that reform was essential because there was “little or no joint planning” on how to care for the elderly.
Their calls come a day after a group of 42 senior GPs wrote in the Telegraph that the Health and Social Care Bill would lead to “enormous benefits” for “the most elderly, infirm and vulnerable in society”.
This was because the formation of Health and Wellbeing Boards on local councils would “coordinate all aspects of care … into a coherent and seamless whole”.
For decades elderly people had been shunted into hospital when they did not really need to be there because growing demand for social care, such as home care assistants, had been neglected.
She thought the Bill offered a vital opportunity to change the situation.
“We will have to address this and integrate, so let’s get on with it,” she said. “None of this is going to be easy, but so far we have not had any serious attempts to solve it. After pensions, it’s the next crisis coming down the tracks.”
“I’m hoping that this Government is really serious about getting it right, rather than doing the spin. I’m reasonably optimistic.”
She hoped reforms would lead to GPs being able to prescribe “domiciliary care” for elderly people while they could not cope at home, for example after a minor fall, “just as they prescribe drugs now”.
Such a move would stop large numbers being admitted to hospital and becoming “bed blockers”.
Ms Mitchell said: “At the moment, silo thinking means that health and social needs are not considered as a whole and there is little or no joint planning between the respective services.
“If the Government is concerned about how best to meet the needs of older people with complex needs, joining up services is a must.”
Ruth Isden, the charity’s public services programmes manager, said improving “poor coordination” could deliver “huge benefits” for patients and large efficiency savings.
But she warned that the Health and Wellbeing Boards, as currently envisaged, “do not have a strong enough role”.
Local public health and social care directors will sit on them with GPs to formulate strategy. She said the boards needed to be given “teeth” to ensure the GP consortia followed through.
Meanwhile, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, admitted that sticking with the status quo on the NHS was not an option.
Tags: Age Concern, Conservatives, David Cameron, Help The Aged, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages, red tape