'Grow up' about 'desperate state' of social care, Dilnot urges politicians

22 February 2024

Politicians have been urged to 'face up' to a social care 'crisis' that is failing people and severely damaging the NHS.

In an interview for The Provider Podcast, Sir Andrew Dilnot (who led an independent, government-commissioned review of funding of care and support in England which reported in 2011) said:

"Social care is in such a desperate state that it's having knock-on consequences for the healthcare system and those consequences are severe.

"This crisis has become so severe that not only are we failing on social care but as a consequence we're failing on healthcare and creating problems there. We can't make the health system work well if we've got a social care system struggling as badly as we have at the moment."

Sir Andrew's warning was echoed by Sir Julian Hartley, the chief executive of NHS Providers, who said the consequences of inaction by successive governments on social care were now 'plain to see'.

Sir Andrew urged decision-makers to recognise that "we have a system that is unsustainable, that is both failing to look after people that need social care and doing damage to the provision of health care and this damage is potentially quite great".

"Grow up. Don't pretend it's not going on. Don't behave as though this massive issue that faces all of us as we grow old is not there. Be honest. Once you face up to it then you're going to recognise that action is needed by government."

Sir Andrew echoed concerns about thousands of people stuck in hospital beds every day when they could be recovering at or closer to home, often because there isn't enough social care capacity.

"We have people stuck in hospital facilities which are less well designed for them and more expensive than care but without there being any care available. We don't need very many delayed transfers to have a really big impact on the capacity of hospitals to do their work properly."

Sir Andrew called for social care to be "raised up the agenda":

"Unless we make it more visible we're not going to get much done. We have to see reform. It has got to the point where marginal change is not going to help."

He told The Provider Podcast:

"Fundamentally we don't allocate enough resources to social care. That means the level of care provided is not adequate, there are some people who need it that are not getting it. Being an employee in this sector is also challenging because all too often you're likely to be not paid very well and being one of the organisations that's trying to provide the care is challenging because it's therefore often difficult to get the staff.

"This is a really big set of issues facing the whole country."

Sir Julian Hartley said:

"For too long successive governments have dodged difficult decisions about social care. The consequences of this inaction are plain for all to see now.

"Social care needs serious political attention, meaningful reform and long-term, sustainable funding to address huge amounts of unmet and undermet need, quality of care and chronic workforce shortages.

"Inadequate funding for social care has a huge effect on people's health and wellbeing and on the NHS which works very closely with severely overstretched social care services.

"With a general election fast approaching it's vital that all politicians take social care seriously."