The government’s failure to agree a funding plan for social care have been greeted with disappointment from across the health sector.
Commentators and interest groups were responding to today’s social care white paper, laid before Parliament this afternoon.
Richard Humphries, a senior fellow specialising in social care at the Kings Fund said: “There is a financial vacuum at the heart of these proposals which undermines the bold and ambitious vision for a reformed system set out in the White Paper.”
“Despite its commitment in the ‘programme for government’ to the urgency of reform, the government has failed to produce a clear plan for how care should be funded or a timetable for how these decisions will be considered.
“Nor has it acknowledged the growing pressures on the current system, maintaining instead that local authorities have sufficient funding to meet current needs. This flies in the face of evidence that care spending is falling while the numbers of people needing care is rocketing.”
Foundation Trust Network chief executive Sue Slipman said expressed regret that a financial settlement has not been reached, and said some trusts were successfully working with council services to help patients receive care at home.
She said: “A sustainable health service rests on having a sustainable social care system. The two elements are increasingly intertwined and the government policy of shifting care out of acute hospitals means that health and social care systems are having to adjust to changing patterns of patient care.”
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, accused the Treasury of “strangling reform” by refusing to commit new funds to guarantee the scheme.
“I smell the dead hand of the Treasury on this,” he said. “But what they don’t realise is the huge cost to the health service which is mounting by refusing to take action on social care. We have a care system in crisis and a ready solution in the Dilnot report. The government’s failure to act will be a bitter disappointment to charity leaders up and down the country.”
Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the plans were only “a start”.
“Accepting the need for a cap on the amount individuals contribute to costs without any timescale for implementation will be cold comfort to service users and patients,” he said. “It also stores up major problems for the future.”
“It is nursing staff who are currently dealing with the pressures of delayed transfers between hospital and community settings, restriction on services and confusion over who pays for what.
“We are particularly concerned that at the moment many people face a ‘revolving door’ in care. For some this means ending up back in hospital soon after discharge as the support simply does not exist to care for them properly in the community.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham thanked ministers for inviting Labour to take part in “constructive” cross-party discussions.
Although he welcomed plans for a universal deferred payments scheme among other national guarantees as “important steps forward”, he accused the government of “flinching” from the challenge of setting out how social care would be paid for in future.
“With no answers on the money, this white paper fails the credibility test,” he said. “It is half a plan. The proposals he has set out today are in danger of appearing meaningless and may in fact raise false hopes amongst older people and their families.”