Experts call for merged NHS and social-care budget
Experts believe that a merged NHS and social-care budget in England will help prevent people with vulnerabilities falling in between the gaps of the two services.
In the Barker Commission’s interim report they say that with an ageing population and a rise in illnesses such as dementia, the lines between the two services have become ‘blurred’. Due to this, they believe friction is being caused between the NHS and councils over who is responsible for care. This then results in people facing delays getting care or going without, reports the BBC.
The commission have also pointed out that over recent years funding has been reduced, meaning the number of services getting publicly funded social care had dropped by a quarter between 2008-09 and 2012-13.
Leader of the commission, Kate Barker, has said that a combined budget would create “a single, seamless health and care system. The current systems rub up against each other like bones in an open fracture. This is not sustainable – we need a new settlement fit for the 21st Century,”
The report has not committed to how this joint system would be funded, or who would be in charge of the budget. These issues are said to be addressed in the final report, which is likely to be published.
A number of suggestions were made in the interim document, including providing free social care at the extreme end, for example in cases such as dementia or end-of-life care. Another option would be to introduce a cap on NHS costs, mirroring what the government is doing for social care from 2016.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said integration was the “right approach”. But she added: “It can’t happen until the social care funding gap is filled, and politicians in every party need to recognise this and commit to action as an urgent priority.”
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