The increasing pressure on the NHS is hard to ignore, and it’s growing. For too long the perception that social care and health care are two separate entities has caused challenges and prevented any real resolution to the strain on the NHS. The move to integrate them has seemingly stalled, to be replaced with funding promises that will do little to create a long-term solution.
Governments and the NHS have been talking about the integration of policies for decades. Recent initiatives include the 2013 spending review announcement of the Better Care Fund, which resulted in health and local government pooling £5.3bn to integrate services and reduce pressures on hospitals, and the launch last year of the Integrated Care and Support Pioneers Programme to make joined-up and coordinated health and care the norm by 2018. But let’s be honest, it’s not enough. Less talking and more doing.
The Prime Minister’s move to integrate social care and health at a ministerial level is welcome news. However, it is only the beginning, and true integration of health and social care is essential outside the corridors of Whitehall if we really want to make a difference. The social care budget is still held by DHCLG making it difficult to see how holistic funding solutions, that address prevention as well as cure, will be possible without further change.
The answer might lie in the long awaited green paper on social care. Something that now sits with Jeremy Hunt. The green paper is due to be published this summer and will hopefully recognise the important role that housing with care can play in taking pressure off the system.
There may be no ‘one answer’ on how we deal with the creaking care system, but we do know that high quality housing options with flexible care available is a model that works. Research by the ILC found that living in accommodation which facilitates living independently yet offers this flexible care is associated with a lower uptake of inpatient hospital beds. What’s more, communal living in retirement villages has a significant impact on reducing the risk of social isolation amongst those that live there, which has been shown to also have an effect on people’s physical well-being.
Retirement villages offer high-quality properties alongside facilities including restaurants, spas and gyms that create a real sense of community. As health needs change over time, dedicated care is also available so that they can continue to live on their own terms, but with the necessary support.
If bureaucracy is preventing health and social care professionals from working together for the benefit of patients, then UK society suffers as a whole. We need to ensure people receive the most appropriate care at the most appropriate time, diverting them from a chronic reliance on the health service. An imminent care revolution to meet demand and alleviate pressure on the NHS is critical.
Ceo, Audley Group
Ceo, Audley Group