MPs demand new deal for sick and elderly let down by system

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pressure is mounting today on Ministers to order sweeping reforms of social care after a report by MPs called for urgent action to improve services for the vulnerable.

MPs on the health select committee said care for older people should be co-ordinated by a single organisation as they demanded a new deal for the sick and elderly, whom they warned were being let down by fragmented and poorly-funded services.

They said funding pressures were leading to cuts in social care services.

The failure to co-ordinate care led to more hospital admissions, later discharge and poorer outcomes, driving up NHS costs, but they warned upcoming sweeping reforms of the NHS were unlikely to promote integrated care.

Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell said: “This government, like its predecessors going back to the 1960s, has stressed the importance it attaches to joined-up services.

“Growing demand, coupled with an unprecedented efficiency challenge, makes it more urgent than ever before to convert these fine words into fine deeds.”

The report also calls on Ministers to back a recommendation by the landmark Dilnot commission last year to cap the costs of social care in an effort to lift the burden from individuals who are forced to sell their homes to pay for vital help as their health deteriorates. Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, called for a comprehensive National Care Service.

“The problem with our social care system is that it is the Cinderella of the welfare state, experiencing years of under-funding, rationing and poor standards,” she said.

“Nearly one million older people are denied any assistance at all, many are still forced to sell their homes in order to pay for care, and the cost and quality of some treatment is shocking.

“If this issue gets kicked into the political long grass again it will be a national scandal and a betrayal of millions of older people and their families who are currently struggling to cope with a complicated and expensive care system.”

Age UK director-general Michelle Mitchell said: “The Government should act urgently on its findings and implement the Dilnot funding reforms, update social care law, and put in place the incentives the committee proposes to bring health and social care much closer together.”

David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “This report highlights yet again the urgent need for the Government to come to grips with the rapidly growing demand for social care and the rising cost of delivering it. The system is already underfunded and problems are being compounded by severe cuts to council budgets.”

Richard Humphries, of the King’s Fund health thinktank, said: “The time for warm words and good intentions has passed – delivering integrated care must assume the same priority over the next decade as reducing waiting times was given over the last.”

Jo Webber, NHS Confederation deputy policy director, said that without reform the social care system was “on the brink of collapse”, but warned the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill would not address problems.

“While promotion of integration is written into the Bill, the creation of new bodies and the division of responsibilities for various services risks fragmenting care more rather than less,” she said.

“This is a particular worry for older people, who tend to have more than one illness and so require integrated care from different services across health and social care.”

Comment: Page 12.