The Independent Care Group today gave a muted welcome to Government proposals designed to better integrate health and social care services.
It says today’s Integration White Paper stops too far short of the NHS and social care merger needed to provide the best service.
The Government today unveiled a White Paper it says will bring NHS and local government closer together to improve care.
Care provider organisation, The Independent Care Group (ICG) welcomed its promises of greater joined up working between NHS and social care services.
But Chair Mike Padgham said: “Whilst all the promises of better choice, more personalised care, shared communications, better service access and coordinated services all sound very laudable, I cannot help but feel we have been here before.
“I fully welcome greater integration between NHS care services and those provided in the community, commissioned by local authorities and clinical commissioning groups. But what we need to see is a merger of those services, rather than just repeated talk of integration.
“I think if we are honest, we can see that having two separate services – one for NHS healthcare and one for social care – simply doesn’t work, however much government after government has promised and tried to integrate the two.
“All that happens in reality is that the status quo prevails and social care remains the poor relation – in terms of funding and status – to NHS care, which always gets the lion’s share of any money available.
“The pandemic has illustrated how the current system fails those it is looking to protect. When Covid-19 struck it exposed a divided system and the result was catastrophic for social care.
“Social care was left behind whilst all the attention and resources went to protecting the NHS. Social care providers couldn’t even get the right protective equipment. The sector is still in crisis, struggling to get staff and survive financially without adequate support.
“The NHS is being hit by huge waiting lists whilst many thousands are in hospital beds when they could be discharged if there were care packages available to look after them. That is the least integrated system you could imagine.
“The only way we can provide a proper service is through a merger and a decision whether a combined health and social care service is managed centrally, by the Government or on a local level.”
As part of its ongoing campaign for change, the ICG wants to see:
- A root and branch overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded
- NHS care and social care merged and managed locally or nationally
- Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation
- Dementia treated and funded like other high priority illnesses
- A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
- Proper pay, conditions and career structure for carers
- Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT.