King`s Fund warns integration with health hampered by poor funding

Progress on integrating social services and health and
protecting users from poor quality care could be seriously impeded
by acute shortages of funds for social care, the Kings Fund has
warned, writes Rachel Downey.

Its five-year health check on government policy concludes the
government has failed to establish a fair and sustainable system
for funding long term care. “It has removed some anomalies from the
system, but may well be creating new problems in their place,” it

The government is praised for much of its record on health,
including its substantial increase in public finance for the NHS
and new transparent system of rationing. “It has managed to achieve
closer integration of health and social care and better regulation
of social care – both sorely needed,” it adds. “It has put
health inequalities on the policy map and made far greater efforts
to reduce them than any of its predecessors.”

However, there are tensions around long term care. The
King’s Fund review argues that the government had been unable
to reconcile a notion of fairness and sustainability, and has not
yet come up with a plan that inspires confidence. It accuses the
government of two “outright failures”. One is the refusal to
implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Long Term
Care for the Elderly, which has left users and carers dissatisfied,
and has failed to mend a rickety system. The other is the use of
private finance to build new hospitals without a strategy based on
an assessment of future need and without transferring any risk from
the public to private sector.

The King’s Fund last year argued for social care funding
to match that of the NHS. Janice Robison, the Fund’s director
of health and social care, said the recent increases announced in
the budget widened the gap between social care and health.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said that
unlike the 7.4 per cent increase for health, which was the maximum
that could be spent, the six per cent increase for social services
departments was the minimum they could spend. He argued that a
larger increase in social care funding would “no only treat people
and care for people, it would release capacity”.





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