From Ros Altmann:economist and pensions,
    investment and retirement policy expert

  • pensionsandsavings.com

    Welcome NHS reform proposals are a missed opportunity

    Welcome NHS reform proposals are a missed opportunity

    • Integrating NHS and social care won’t sort out care crisis without the long-promised overhaul of social care funding.  
    •  Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the massive failings in our care system which leaves elderly people as an afterthought.
    •  Social care funding reforms desperately needed to ensure all older people have basic dignified care regardless of their illness. 

    I welcome the Government’s plans for a blueprint for integration of health and social care: Properly integrating social care with NHS care is long overdue, as the current separation has long been a stumbling block in the way of elderly people being looked after with the dignity they deserve. I also welcome the emphasis on prevention and the aim of cutting bureaucracy and freeing resources for person-centred care, rather than tick-box form filling.

    But it’s another missed opportunity to reveal radical social care reforms urgently needed: We are now promised a White Paper and legislation to implement these reforms, but we are still waiting for the radical overhaul of social care that has been promised for years and was supposedly ready to roll out. This looks like another missed opportunity to finally fix our broken care system. Sadly, there is no sign yet of urgently needed legislative measures on this issue.

    Government says it intends to bring forward proposals later this year – why are we still waiting?: Reforms to integrate social care with the NHS need to be integrated with social care funding reform too. Fixing the failures requires a holistic approach. Urgent reforms are desperately needed by families up and down the country.

    Covid has highlighted that social care is a neglected part of the healthcare system with elderly people suffering: Vulnerable older people are being forced to pay huge sums for care, without adequate safeguards. Many of those moved into a care home are paying these costs, while other people in the NHS system are funded by taxpayers. Elderly people were disgracefully discharged from NHS hospitals at the start of the pandemic, with care homes forced to accept them even if they had Covid. These elderly patients, other residents and staff were put at risk of catching Covid-19 and some sadly died and had used their life savings or family home to pay for their care. There are important lessons to learn and integration with the NHS can help some of this, but just sharing budgets is not solving the long-standing problem and will not fix the problems that have existed for many years.

    Just forcing care homes to be hospital overflow accommodation will not fix social care: I hope that a proper review of the need for integration between social care and NHS care will ensure all those with a healthcare need are treated with parity of esteem, while central funding is set aside to pay for the dignified care our older generations deserve. The mistake of using care homes to free up beds in hospitals, just in case they were needed, highlights how disjointed our system is.

    Elderly people should be looked after with dignity, regardless of their illness, with free basic care at the point of need: Those who did not qualify for NHS funding were charged thousands of pounds for their enforced care home isolation, while being exposed to Covid risks in order to save the NHS. This type of injustice must never happen again.

    I hope the Chancellor will recognise the urgent need to fix the broken care system:  We are still waiting for the promised proposals and legislation to reform both funding and delivery of social care, and to ensure it is fair to those who are unable to live independently, whether in their own home or in a residential setting.

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