I spent some time yesterday in a long meeting with a local resident. He had cared for his mum for many years and sadly she died. The circumstances leading up to her death and the nursing home care she received tell a grim tale. My local resident called for an investigation and has written numerous letters demanding social care reform. He has written to MPs, Prime Ministers, Parliamentary Health Ombudsmen and the CQC. His activism and call for changes to the system has gone on for fourteen years.
I tell that story to highlight the recent Government announcement that the Social Care Green Paper, which was originally to be published in the summer of 2017, might not be produced after all. There is the suggestion that Boris Johnson’s government might publish a white paper instead.
I think it is all about a General Election – get the white policy paper out with strong proposals so that it looks like the Conservatives are taking action.
However, will it be the right action? The idea of a Green Paper is to bring together experts and have a proper consultation on proposals. One of the things my local resident is calling for is a high-level round-table, cross-party discussion on the best ways forward for social care. There are various views and proposals which should be given careful consideration. I personally like the idea of revisiting the Dilnot Report and capping personal contributions to social care; but I also think basic care should be covered in England as it is in Scotland.
And what about the integration of health and social care? My local resident tells me at length about the faults of the current system and insists money should not be poured into a broken system. The system itself needs fixing.
Studies have already shown the savings to be made by truly integrating health and social care. I spoke to my local NHS trust CEO about this recently and was told that one of the problems with current attempts to integrate care (so that the health and social care teams looking after someone can better work together) is the antiquated IT systems in use and the problems with these systems interfacing. We have the technology, but we need to invest in updating to systems which can better integrate health and social care.
Things are definitely heating up. We have the NHS Confederation writing a letter to the Prime Minister demanding action on the health and social care crisis. I was pleased to see that two signatories from Devon added their name to the plea to sort services out. The letter calls for
Cross-party talks to help deliver a more sustainable social care system, backed up by a long-term financial settlement
Immediate funding increases in the upcoming one-year government spending review that is being conducted this autumn to shore up care services in the short term
Genuine long-term funding alongside key reforms to help deliver a solution for social care that lasts a generation and more. This must include a widening of the eligibility criteria to ensure those people most in need get the care and support they require.
The House of Commons briefing paper, published on 14 August 2019, “Adult social care: the Government’s ongoing policy review and anticipated Green Paper (England) can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of this page.
* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.