The Health and Social Care Secretary’s statement on his key priorities this winter pays little attention to the challenges facing social care.
It is incredibly disappointing to see that today’s announcement from Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who shared his key priorities as we head into winter, is focused on the challenges facing the NHS with little reference to the worsening crisis in social care.
We welcomed the additional detail about the Adult Social Care Discharge Fund which is desperately needed to address frighteningly long waiting lists for care. But the focus seemed to be on moving ‘bed blockers’ rather than investing in social care as a crucial public service. We are also concerned to hear that this funding will be provided to ICBs which are at an early stage of development and so far are failing to incorporate strong representation from adult social care.
We are not aware of any similar plans from the Secretary of State to address the social care workforce ahead of what will be a very challenging winter, as the sector deals with record high job vacancies, staff shortages and increased demand for social care.
Unfortunately, this health-focused statement only reinforces what frontline care workers already know – that the government cares more about headline-grabbing fixes in the NHS than social care reform.
In social care, we talk about people not patients. People, who have hopes and dreams, are entitled to support which enables them to live the life they choose. They are not just taking up space in hospitals.
Delayed discharge is one of many issues which requires a team effort across health and social care and collaboration is important. However, full integration of these two separate systems is a long term goal which can only succeed if we tackle existing inequalities in funding and representation. And just talking about equality to block a meagre pay rise for nurses is not what’s needed right now.
We sincerely hope that the Secretary of State will speak to the social care workforce and commit to tackling the workforce crisis before the situation escalates any further, not just because it frees up hospital beds, but because he has a genuine commitment to improving the lives of people who draw on social care.