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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Social care cuts have been disaster for NHS provision, says ex-health secretary

Written by The Press Association

Cuts to social care have had a disastrous effect on NHS provision, a Labour former health secretary has warned.

Lord Reid of Cardowan argued the move had a knock-on effect in putting pressure on the rest of the health service and urged a Government rethink in the forthcoming Budget.

The peer made his call as ministers were tackled over the soaring debt of NHS trusts, which had risen sharply in 12 months from £894 million in 2014/15 to £2.45 billion the following year.

The issue had been raised in the House of Lords by his fellow Labour peer Baroness McDonagh, who accused the Government of providing "the most expensive and the worst system of care for the elderly in the western world".

Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy told peers: "The NHS is facing pressure from the ageing population, increasing demand and changing expectations.

"In addition, there are the cost of new drugs, treatments and safer staffing requirements. All these factors have an impact on NHS trust budgets."

He added: "To address this the NHS leadership bodies have developed their own plan to deliver financial sustainability for the NHS and the Government is supporting that plan by investing a further £10 billion a year in the NHS by 2020/21."

But Lady McDonagh said she did not "recognise reality" in his answer.

She said: "It is the case that the Government have cut £1.8 billion to social care during this period, which has led to the escalation of the £2.5 billion in NHS debt.

"I don't know whether it's through incompetence or ideology that the Government has set about providing us with the most expensive and the worst system of care for the elderly in the western world."

She urged the minister to "use all of his powers of persuasion" to direct more cash into local authorities for social care.

"It will save lives and money," she added.

Lord O'Shaughnessy said: "Social care is under a lot of pressure, of course it is, which is why in the Autumn Statement additional money was outlined for social care."

Tory former minister Lord Maude of Horsham said overspending by NHS trusts had contributed to the growing deficit and argued this could be tackled by a return to health service mutuals.

He said under the coalition, the not-for-profit, staff-led social enterprises saw "a dramatic improvement in productivity, an improvement in quality and cut costs".

Lord Maude added: "A revival of this process, which has lightly been stifled I suspect by the attitude of the NHS establishment, could make a major contribution to improving productivity in the health service."

Pressing the Government on social care, Lord Reid said funding cuts had "a knock-on effect with the ageing population in putting pressure on the NHS".

He called on the minister to lobby for the reversal of cuts to social care "which are not only having an effect on the care provision but having a disastrous effect on the provision through the National Health Service."

Lord O'Shaughnessy said: "It's certainly the case that one part of the system impacts on the other part of the system... there's no denying that".

But on the deficit, the minister insisted that in the current financial year "the picture was considerably better" than it was in 2015/16 and stressed that extra funding was going in.

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