NHS Confederation-commissioned research from the Health Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) sets out strong evidence supporting an increase in spending on social care.
In particular, a funding boost is needed to address inconsistent provision across the UK, and tackle rising numbers of people with unmet care needs which has led to increasing reliance on unpaid care from friends and families.
Securing the future: funding health and social care to the 2030s highlights that spending on adult social care has fallen since 2009-10, despite increasing demand from a growing and ageing population. The report finds that 3.9% annual increases in social care spending would be the minimum needed, just to continue the current level of service provision for projected demand for social care services, which are expected to rise by around £18 billion by 2033–34.
Alongside the Health Foundation and IFS analysis, new polling data by IPSOS Mori for NHS Confederation reveals that 82% of the British public support a 3.9% increase in social care spending.
The new data also shows that 77% of the public support a 4% increase in healthcare spending to help meet growing demand and make some ‘modest improvements’. But social care funding must also rise to tackle problems facing the health service including rising numbers of emergency admissions and patients facing delayed discharges as a result of social care spending cuts.
Since 2009−10, local authorities have faced sizeable cuts in their funding from central government. Many have responded to squeezed budgets by tightening eligibility criteria and concentrating care and support on those with the highest needs. As a result, over 400,000 fewer people accessed publicly funded social care in 2016−17 than in 2009−10.
Differences in needs and generosity have led to large differences in spending per adult in local authorities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2015–16, social care spending per adult was 31% lower in England than in Scotland, a gap which has grown from 19% in 2011–12.
The gap between spending in England and Northern Ireland is even greater.
The report also highlights that the social care workforce is larger than the NHS’s, with around 1.1 million workers in 2016, and to meet projected demand for social care services, an additional 458,000 staff will be required in the next 15 years.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“We were promised radical reform of social care but yet again nothing has been forthcoming. This has been an area of failure by successive governments which has let down millions of elderly and vulnerable people. Now the delays and dithering have to stop.
“Our report has sparked an important debate among politicians and the public about the future of health and social care in this country and demonstrated how dependent they are on each other.
“It demolishes the idea that the current system and funding levels are sustainable.
“The evidence makes the compelling case that we cannot go on running as we are while the new polling evidence shows the British public agrees. The choice is either significant investment or at best a period of managed decline.”
Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said:
“After eight years of austerity our social care services are failing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their families, and the sector is in a precarious state. The government has signalled that it will provide a much-needed funding increase for the NHS, but health and social care are inextricably linked.
“Failure to adequately fund social care, which needs funding increases of at least 3.9% a year, will mean even fewer people receiving the care they need and ongoing inconsistent provision across the UK. This will undoubtedly exacerbate pressure on the NHS, with more and more people with no alternative but to seek help in A&E departments, and hospital beds blocked due to a severe lack of community care.”