Public Accounts Committee: Interface between health and social care
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee is conducting an inquiry into the relationship between health and social care. It will explore how to improve the health and social care interface in a way that not only saves money, but gives a better experience for patients and those requiring care.
We welcome the additional funding the Prime Minister recently announced for the NHS, however it is also vital that social care and broader public services are adequately funded. Without this we will simply store up problems for front-line health services, as well as falling short of the care and support the public needs.
Social care and health care are highly interdependent and each plays a key role in ensuring that people are supported in the right setting at the right time. Years of cuts to local authority budgets have led to a significant squeeze on social care services, with the Local Government Association highlighting that Councils face a £7.8 billion funding black hole by 2025. The knock-on effect of this has been felt right across the NHS, including hospital, community, mental health and ambulance services.
The NHS and social care are working together locally to address these pressures, but integration of services is not a panacea. We also need support for public health and prevention as well as a clearer national strategy for joined up health and social care services which supports people to stay well for longer and brings care closer to home. The forthcoming NHS 10 year plan and five year delivery plan offer the opportunity to do this and it is imperative that the frontline are involved in the development of these plans.
Transformative change requires investment: Many of the vanguard sites across England have introduced innovative approaches that can be shared and spread at scale, while also building strong partnerships across traditional boundaries, overcoming complex governance challenges and involving staff, patients and the public in service change. There is much to learn from the work of the vanguards, and other local initiatives to develop new models of care, but as the NAO highlights in its report the Health and Social Care interface, trying to bring about transformational change, with little or no extra money, while sustaining existing services is exceptionally difficult.