NHS chiefs have used Community Care research on rising eligibility adult care thresholds to issue a stark warning about the impact that social care cuts will have on the health service.
Two days before the government’s comprehensive spending review, the NHS Confederation said it was “deeply worried” about the prospect of 25% cuts to government funding for councils from 2011-15, saying it could lead to many councils only meeting critical care needs for adults.
The confederation cited Community Care research, published last month that found that 80% of councils would no longer be meeting adult care users’ moderate needs by next year, up from 75% now.
Acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “It seems inevitable that we will see a significant withdrawal of support from some of the most vulnerable people in our society – before long we could see a majority of councils only supplying services to those with the most critical of needs.
“At a superficial level, this may ease pressure on the social care budget. But the needs of these vulnerable people and their families will not simply disappear – if needs are not met by social care, people will turn to the NHS.”
Edwards described this as a “classic false economy” that would lead to pressures on A&E departments and GP surgeries, or cause delayed discharges from hospital.
He said there was a desperate need for a long-term solution to care funding – something that is currently being considered by a government-appointed commission – but Edwards said this would not happen for some years. He added: “There is a strong case for an interim solution. Local and central government need to urgently work together to consider how we can all mitigate the impact of this spending squeeze on some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
NHS funding will rise in real terms from 2011-15 but Edwards said cuts to social care, along with the need for the health service to make efficiency gains of £15bn to £20bn over this period, would leave it facing significant pressures.
His comments follow calls from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services for the NHS to fund social care services, such as reablement home care, on the basis that this would reduce pressures on the health service.
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