What does a Conservative government mean for social care?
The General Election 2015 outcome was a surprise for many. After a collation for the last five years, it was almost expected that we would be facing another collaborative government after polls showed a close race. However, the Conservative party gained a narrow majority to take up the mantle in its sole right.
Its policies on social care made a lot of promises, including the integration of health and social care services, more money for the NHS and better access to services. You can see a pre-Election overview of the policies here.
In recent days, it was confirmed that Jeremy Hunt would continue in his position as Secretary of State for Health. Upon his re-appointment, Mr Hunt said: “My biggest priority now is to transform care outside hospitals - just as we have dramatically improved the quality of care inside hospitals in the last few years. All of us want every single older and vulnerable person to be treated with the highest standards of care - so we need a step change in services offered through GP surgeries, community care and social care. That is my mission, and I know it is the mission of the whole NHS too.”
Meanwhile Norman Lamb has been replaced by Alistair Burt as the minister for adult social care. Alistair Burt has been the MP for North East Bedfordshire since 2001, and is the president of Carers in Bedfordshire, a charity supporting carers with mental and physical stress due to their role. He has said that he hopes to build on the work that Norman Lamb started.
Commentators in the industry have a mixed view on what a Conservative government will actually mean for our health and social care.
Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund (www.kingsfund.org.uk) said in a press release that ensuring funding for the NHS is a key priority for the new government: “The government must use the Spending Review later this year to put the NHS on a sustainable financial footing for the rest of the parliament. The additional £8 billion a year by 2020 pledged in the Conservative manifesto is welcome but is the bare minimum needed to maintain standards of care and will not pay for new initiatives such as seven-day working. More money will also be needed for social care.”
However, an article on the CommunityCare website suggests that research shows that social care spending will be faced with further deep cuts: “The victory is likely to result in more cuts to social care budgets over the next five years. The Conservatives have pledged to protect spending on the NHS, education and international aid and find £12bn of savings from the welfare bill. But according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the Tories will also need to find £30bn in real-terms cuts from ‘unprotected’ departments, including social care and defence.”
The main concern in the industry seems to be over where the Conservative government will find the promised additional funding for the NHS and how this will impact on the many promises made in its pre-election campaigns. The British Medical Association (BMA) has submitted its six key priorities for the new government, which include addressing the funding shortfall for health. BMA council chair, Mark Porter said: “‘With the general election campaign over the real work of meeting the challenges the NHS faces begins. Over the course of the past year we have been subjected to: headline-grabbing initiatives aimed more at winning votes than improving health outcomes; seen endless delays and confusion over public health policy; and, most importantly, listened to unrealistic and uncosted pledge after pledge about NHS funding and staffing.”
Much of the focus has been on the NHS and health care, but social care needs a lot of attention and funding, to help keep people out of hospital and at home. Care England, the largest representative body for social care providers, said that while they “welcome the new government” they hope to see improvement in the social care system that has been “undervalued and underfunded”. Chief Executive Professor Martin Green said in a press release: “The social care sector has borne the brunt of much negativity and is too often seen as the poor relation to health care. We at Care England are enthused by many of the positive and enabling projects that have flourished and we hope that the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, and his team will be open to suggestions from the people at the coal face.”