Latest policy ideas on social care: up to the challenge?

The social care system in England is in a state of crisis. The sector is struggling to recruit and retain staff, and as a result standards are falling, and many people are not getting the care services they need. There is also now the added issue of inflationary pressures and rocketing gas and electricity bills. 

Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister, stated in one husting that she would divert the £13bn of funding earmarked for the NHS to deal with the Covid backlog to social care instead.

This idea was branded as “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund, and “not a sustainable solution to the health and care crisis.”

Social care has been in trouble for many years, but plans for reform have been kicked down the road by successive Conservative governments. Despite what Boris Johnson said in his leaving speech, he did not reform social care. In fact, it is now in an even worse state than before Johnson’s term as PM as the long-term impact of years of austerity and the Covid-19 pandemic is being compounded by spiralling inflation and intense pressures on the labour market.

Whilst Truss’s acknowledgement of the crisis in the social care sector is welcome, how her plans for the sector will make a difference are not clear yet.

There are reports that the new Health and Care Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, is examining proposals to re-introduce the Discharge to Assess programme used during 2020/21 to free up beds for Covid-19 patients. Under the scheme, care homes were paid to look after patients who were medically fit to leave hospital but could not be discharged because of a lack of social care.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) believes the scheme could free up thousands of hospital beds currently occupied by “delayed discharge” patients and so reduce the time taken for handovers by ambulance crews to A&E staff.

Full article in The Lowdown, 8 September 2022