Two former health ministers have called for social care to be free at the point of need.
In a review commissioned by healthcare think tank IPPR, former health ministers Lord Ara Darzi and Lord David Prior argued that social care should be free for adults.
The Better Health and Care for All report comes ahead of the Government ‘s green paper on proposals to reform care and support for older people, due to be published this summer.
Free personal and nursing care
Lord Prior and Lord Darzi said: ‘We recommend embracing a bold reform and funding plan for social care by moving to universal, free-at-the-point-of-need personal and nursing care for adults in England.’
At the moment, only adults with ‘eligible needs’ can benefit from publicly funded social care.
The former ministers argued that this system is ‘poor value for the public purse’.
They continued: ‘A lack of funding has meant that social care is only provided to those in greatest need, leading to underinvestment in prevention.
‘Public funding is only available once a person has already deteriorated – when they will by definition have much more intensive needs – rather than at a stage when their health and independence can be maintained.’
According to Lord Prior and Lord Darzi, delayed transfers of care tripled between 2010 and 2016, with around 2.3 million hospital bed days lost to delays in 2016/17 – costing the NHS around £3bn a year.
The report stated that the system should be ‘radically simplified’ by, for example, replacing clinical commissioning groups and sustainability and transformation partnerships with health and care authorities (HCAs) that would have powers to intervene in local economies.
Local Government Association (LGA) vice chair, councillor Linda Thomas said HCAs would be a major centralisation of commissioning powers away from local health and care leaders and a poor substitute for the current health and wellbeing boards.
She added: ‘While we support Lord Darzi’s proposal to tailor our model of care around people’s needs and capabilities, we don’t agree that legislative and structural change is the only way to address the challenges in the system.
‘Rather than taking a new broom approach and sweeping away existing good practice through new legislation and structural changes, we should build on what we already have.’
The LGA estimated that adult social care services will face a funding gap of £2bn by 2020.