NHS facing colossal care bill unless system is overhauled urgently
The Coalition is failing to live up to its pledge to find an urgent solution to the funding crisis over care for the elderly, the leaders of the Royal College of Nursing and Age UK warn.Months of delays in announcing a white paper to overhaul the care system are fuelling further uncertainty about the future threatening to land the NHS with a “colossal” and unnecessary bill, they say.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Michelle Mitchell, director general of Age UK, and Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN, accuse the Government of failing to “measure up” on pledges in the Coalition Agreement to find a sustainable solution.
They say that unless “brave and radical decisions” are taken now, the NHS will be flooded with tens of thousands of elderly people who could be cared for elsewhere, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds a year.
Almost a million older people in need of some form of care do not currently receive it because their needs are not considered severe enough need or do not qualify for financial support, it has been estimated.
It is thought that many of those who eventually end up in hospital could have avoided being admitted had they had basic care at home.
At present anyone with assets including their home worth more than £23,500 gets no help with their care, and many people below that level still have to pay much of their costs.
The coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010 recognised the “urgency” of reforming the care system and easing the financial burden on families.
A Government-backed commission chaired by the economist Andrew Dilnot last year called for a new system of funding to be agreed, capping the amount anyone had to pay in their lifetime for care at around £35,000.
Dilnot also called for the threshold to be more than tripled to about £100,000.
But a year after they were first published, the Government has yet to make any commitment on the Dilnot proposals, which are the subject of cross-party talks behind closed doors.
The Government is also due to unveil a long-awaited white paper later this month reforming aspects of the care system to integrate it more closely with the NHS.
But it is expected that any major decision on funding will be postponed amid disagreement over the way forward.
The two groups are warning the Government that any further delay in reforming the system could cripple the NHS.
They write: “When the Coalition Government came to power, it said that it recognised the urgency of reforming the social care system. Ahead of the imminent publication of the Social Care White Paper, just how is the Government measuring up on this issue?
“The answer, sadly, is not well.”
They continue: “[We] fear that unless sustainable funding is established and a fair and decent care system is provided, a colossal and growing slice of the NHS budget will be spent trying to pick up the pieces.
“According to the Department of Health, more than 120,000 days in hospital were lost in just two months last year, because our older people were kept on wards unnecessarily.
“These people, often confused and alone, rarely have the support available at home, and so stay in hospital without needing to be there. This costs the tax payer millions, not to mention the avoidable discomfort it causes to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Tags: Care Professionals, Conservatives, Health Professionals, home care, nhs cash shortages, Nurses, preventable crisis, private health, RCN, social care