Chancellor Philip Hammond claimed the Conservatives “are the party of the NHS” as he announced an extra £2 billion for social care in yesterday’s (8 March) Budget.
Mr Hammond (pictured) told the House of Commons that the funding boost would help ease pressures faced by the health service.
He said: “Today, there are half a million more people aged over 75 than there were in 2010. And there will be two million more in 10 years’ time.
“That is why the government has already delivered more than £7bn extra spending power to the system over the next three years.
“And it is why we are ensuring that local authorities and the NHS work more closely together. To enable elderly patients to be discharged when they are ready, freeing up precious NHS beds, and ensuring that elderly people are receiving the care they need.
“Today I am committing additional grant funding of £2 billion to social care in England over the next three years, with £1bn available in 17-18. This will allow local authorities to act now to commission new care packages.
“The social care funding package I have announced today will deliver immediate benefit to the NHS allowing it to re-focus on delivering the NHS England Forward View Plan.”
Elsewhere, the Chancellor revealed that £325 million will be spent on developing the NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
He continued: “The Treasury will work closely with the Department of Health over the course of the summer as the STPs are progressed and prioritised.
“And at Autumn Budget I will announce a multi-year capital programme to support implementation of approved high quality STPs.”
A further £100m was also made available for up to 100 new triage projects at English hospitals in time for next winter.
Concluding, Mr Hammond said: “We have addressed the pressures on the NHS from the social care system with a total of £9.25 billion additional resource.
“We will protect the NHS from the effects of the changed personal injury discount rate, and have set aside £5.9 billion across the forecast period to do so.
“And today we have made a clear new commitment to fund a capital programme for the implementation of high quality STPs, with a first down-payment for the early pioneers. Mr Deputy Speaker, we are the government of the NHS.”
Royal College of Physicians (RCP) president Professor Jane Dacre said: “The £2 billion allocated to social care funding over the next three years will ease some of the issues we currently face, but we know that the NHS and social care are inextricably intertwined - with current NHS performance being significantly affected by the record number of patients stuck in hospital. This has increased by 80% in the past five years alone. Only last week, in our latest report, Against the odds, we outlined how the underfunding in social care is having a prolonged impact on NHS services, with examples of patients remaining in hospital for months because of delays in being discharged, and a continued lack of beds in all areas, resulting inevitably in low staff morale.
"We welcome the government’s recognition of the significant long-term problems facing social care and has committed to introducing a Green Paper later this year.”
Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: ‘The £1bn extra for social care announced in today’s Budget is to be welcomed. However, the health service’s own figures suggest that social care needs a minimum of £2 billion next year – the National Living Wage alone adds around £900 million to the cost of social care in 2017/18.
“This will put unacceptable pressure on vulnerable and older people, and their families, who are struggling to manage on a daily basis.’
“Not investing the amount needed in social care is a false economy. The clear message from local NHS plans is that without extra funding for social care, the NHS’s proposals to transform care and improve efficiency will be put at risk. Importantly acute pressures due to crowding in A&E and delayed discharges are unlikely to change.
“The Chancellor also announced an extra £325 million of capital funding for the NHS in England. But this year capital spending was cut by £1.2 billion as investment budgets were raided to fund continuing deficits. The evidence is clear that wholesale transformation of the way health and social care is delivered is needed to ensure high quality care. The NHS, the social care system, and the thousands who rely on both every day, need adequate levels of investment and today’s budget falls short.”
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think-tank, said: “The £2 billion announced for social care over the next three years is welcome and desperately needed – but the £1 billion share of that cash promised for next year will plug only half of the funding gap we’ve identified for that year. £1 billion is also only the sum that’s already been cut from local councils’ adult social care budgets over the last five years. More and more vulnerable people are therefore going to be denied the help they need in the next year.”
On the Chancellor’s announcement of extra capital funding for the NHS, Mr Edwards commented:
“It’s a sensible idea to make extra capital funding available immediately to help the new local health partnerships put their plans for new facilities into practice. But given that £1.2 billion has already been taken from the NHS’s capital budget this year by the Department of Health simply to plug the gap in Trusts’ running costs, there is no point topping up capital reserves if they’re going to be raided in this way in the future.
“Putting family doctors into A&E departments to help treat less sick patients is a good idea, and the capital funding the Chancellor has announced today will help hospitals which don’t currently have enough space to do it – but the big question is whether we actually have enough GPs to make this policy a reality.”
Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said: “The additional money announced today is welcome recognition of the huge pressures facing social care. It will provide some short-term relief for older and disabled people, families and carers who are being let down by the current system.
“The plan to publish a green paper on the future of social care funding is encouraging, but we have been here before. This time, the government must break the mould and deliver the radical reforms that are so badly needed.
“A starting point for this should be the report of the Barker Commission, which recommends a new settlement for health and social care and a single budget to put them both on a sustainable footing for the future. This will need to be funded by reforms to existing benefits paid to older people, increases in national insurance and changes to taxation.
“This winter the NHS has been buckling under the strain of meeting rising demand for services and maintaining standards of care. The Chancellor must address this in his autumn Budget or be honest with the public about the standards of care they can expect with the funding the NHS has been given.”