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How will the promised boost in funding help to solve the social care crisis?

With a growing number of older people needing help to live independently at home, there is massive pressure on funding. A promised increase may go some way to helping.

By Camille Leavold

The UK Government recently announced a £3.5bn annual real-terms increase in funding for primary and community care in England, with Prime Minister Theresa May suggesting the cash boost would allow more people to be cared for in their own home, while other government figures claim it will also improve the quality of treatment in care homes.

This spending is part of the NHS long-term plan to improve care at home and in homes, and prevent unnecessary hospital stays.

At a time when health and social care is in crisis, the additional funding is good news. Yet, there remain some significant concerns that the funding boost is little more than a band aid for a bullet wound.

How will the funding improve care?

In November 2018, the Government announced that primary and community healthcare in England would be receiving a funding boost amounting to £3.5bn a year by 2023/24. It is hoped that the additional funding will go some way towards alleviating pressure on NHS hospitals, by improving the quality and availability of care at home.

Certainly, alleviating pressure on hospitals is an important priority, especially with research showing that more than one third of people in hospital stay longer than they actually need to, often due to a lack of available care at home.

The money is also expected to help pay for community-based rapid response teams, which are to be available on a 24/7 basis. These teams will be made up of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other adult care providers, who will be able to offer more urgent care and support when patients need it, without them needing to go to hospital.

“Too often people end up in hospital – not because it’s the best place to meet their needs, but because the support that would allow them to be treated or recover in their own home just isn’t available,” the Prime Minister, Theresa May, explained when announcing the new funding. “Many patients would be much better off being cared for in the community and the longer a patient stays in hospital the more it costs the NHS. This needs to change.”

The need to do more

The funding boost is being broadly welcomed, although many experts believe it’s not sufficient to tackle the current problems in the care industry that stem from underfunding.

The money enables GPs and community services to keep up with demand for the next five years, and is broadly in line with the 3.4 per cent overall that the NHS in England is getting over the next five years, says Sally Gainsbury, Senior Policy Analyst at the Nuffield Trust. She argues though that it doesn’t represent real extra funding for out-of-hospital care.

The research group the King’s Fund has pointed out that true social care reform is about much more than simply funding amounts. It wants to see more investment in activities that minimise future need or demand, for example. And with around 700,000 extra care workers likely to be required over the next decade, there’s a need for the Government to tackle this issue more positively.

There are currently also immense pressures on private care agencies as businesses and an increasing number of adult care providers are now struggling to make ends meet.

This is an important issue for the entire care sector, because these organisations can play a vital role in easing the pressures on the NHS. By delivering high-quality social care for service users who are still living in their homes, these adult care providers have the potential to keep more people out of hospitals, and can help to improve overall quality of life for people living with illnesses or disabilities.

Camille Leavold is managing director and co-founder of Abbots Care, a home care provider in Dorset. With an experience as a health and social care consultant, Camille started the agency in 1995 to provide high-quality care services in Hertfordshire and Dorset using trained staff.

More information:

  • 1000 more link workers, trained to prescribe social activities such as exercise groups and art classes, are to be recruited by NHS England by 2021.
  • Altogether NHS England plans to employ an extra 22,000 non-medical staff to free up GPs to spend more time with the most complex patients, such as the frail elderly and those with multiple conditions

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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