The Local Government Association (LGA) has criticised the newly published NHS Long Term Plan for a failure to sufficiently address the related social care issues.
It protested that the plan includes no funding provision for social care, despite the widely recognised need for its integration with healthcare. It also pointed out that the Government’s expected green paper on adult social care has not yet appeared.
This has implications for investments in the digital capability of the sector, with the need to facilitate the sharing of records and care plans with the NHS and care providers. The LGA has previously pointed out that sharp cuts in councils’ funding have undermined their ability to invest in digital technology.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The plan has a much needed focus on prevention, early support and reducing health inequalities as well as promising investment in primary, community and mental health services. The focus on giving children the best start and on caring for older people in their own homes is right and should complement social care and wider services provided through councils and others.
“However, the ambition set out can only be fully realised if adult social care and public health services in councils are also properly funded.
“We feel this is a missed opportunity for the Government to also launch its long awaited adult social care green paper and proposals for the sustainable funding of these services.”
Need to join up
Last summer the LGA published its own green paper on the future of adult social care which included details of its consultation with local authorities. The findings included a recognition of the need for a joined up infrastructure for health and social care, including the need for information sharing.
Specifically, it called for whatever digital activity that is delivered through the NHS Plan to recognise and fund the interfaces and shared records between councils and the care sector.
Hudspeth added: "The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand unless the Government urgently invests in these essential services, which protect health, prevent sickness and are the surest way to reduce hospital admissions.”
The NHS Long Term Plan, published on Monday, included an emphasis on digital investments, although this focused largely on shifting the balance of care inside the health service.
Its measures to facilitate the integration with social care are largely based on management structures, including the creation of integrated care systems and community multidisciplinary teams, along with the roll out of personal health budgets.
It also recognises the need for many hospital patients of social care support when they are discharged, and that failures in the system often lead to ‘bed blocking’ in wards. It makes a priority of getting more people at home without delay when they are ready to leave hospital.
There is an intent to blend health and social care budgets when councils and clinical commissioning groups agree it makes sense, but announcements on any further plans will have to wait for the publication of the Government’s green paper on integration.
The integration of health and social care provides the focus for a UKAuthority conference to take place in London on 14 February. It will look at issues such how we can use technology to keep vulnerable safe in their homes, the potential of data analytics and using tech to place people within a ‘virtual circle’ of friends and carers.
It is free to attend for the public sector. More details from here.
Image from iStock, Slobodan Vasic