Hunt calls for end
to ‘divide’ at heart 
of health

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The Health Secretary has called for a “culture of co-operation” across the health and social care systems, saying too many people are “falling between the cracks”.

Jeremy Hunt said the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes “beggars belief”.

In his second speech as Health Secretary, Mr Hunt also said there is a lack of communication between different parts of the health system.

He said GP practices are not talking to hospitals and hospitals are not communicating with each other.

As a result, patients with the “loudest voices and the sharpest elbows” often get the best treatment, he said.

Speaking at the National Children’s and Adults’ Services Conference in Eastbourne, he said: “We need a culture of co-operation across health and social care, with the individual needs of the people that we are responsible for at its heart.

“The old structures have not worked well enough. With GP practices not talking to hospitals, hospitals not talking to each other, and the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes beggaring belief.

“This lack of openness and communication, of trust, means that too many people simply fall between the cracks.

“All too often those with the loudest voices and the sharpest elbows, or at least those who have parents or children with those elbows or voices, are the ones who get the best treatment.”

He added: “Good things happen when the NHS and councils come together.

“But all too often this happens despite the system, not because of it.”

He claimed that changes implemented by the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act provided the opportunity to bring together care systems.

Mr Hunt said he wanted to make Britain one of the best countries in Europe to grow old.

But some delegates accused him of not making any commitments on the Dilnot cap on care.

The Dilnot Commission on the funding of care and support recommended that the amount of money people pay towards the cost of their care in old age should be capped at £35,000.

Mr Hunt said: “The Dilnot cap, which we and I strongly support, we are committed to introducing as soon as we are financially able.”

He also outlined his top priorities for health.

He said he wants to make Britain have the best survival rates in Europe for the “big killer diseases” such as cancer, and heart, liver and respiratory diseases.

He also wants to improve care for people living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis, as well as “transforming” care for dementia patients.

Earlier in the day he pledged £50m to help hospitals and care homes become more dementia- friendly.

The funding will be used to create calming surroundings that will help avoid confusion.

The money could be used to create hi-tech sensory rooms or specially adapted outdoor spaces, or it could be used for simple measures such as creating large-print signs or providing photos of local scenes from years gone by to help sufferers feel connected to their past.

Research by the King’s Fund suggests that cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes are the top causes of confusion and distress in people with dementia who are expected to number one million in the UK by 2020.

Anna Dixon, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: “By putting the specific needs of people with dementia first in the way we design wards and care homes it’s possible to make a very big difference to people living with dementia, their families and the staff who support them.”

Comment: Page 12; Dementia care shows why NHS choice matters: Page 13.