There is growing momentum behind the call to fix our country’s social care crisis. And rightly so, writes NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson in an article first published in the Daily Mail.
It is a national disgrace that hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society are failing to get the care and support they need.
In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson pledged to revolutionise social care once and for all. His words must be followed by action.
Across the country there are gross inequities in the level of social care available, and the problem is especially serious for those devastated by dementia.
Around 1.4million older people in England cannot access the support they need. A total of 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia – this is set to increase to more than one million by 2025.
This challenge will not solve itself.
The NHS Confederation, which represents front-line NHS leaders, backs the Mail’s campaign on this issue.
At the moment, people face a perilous lottery when it comes to their entitlement to state support for their care needs.
People with dementia who have assets over £23,250 (including the value of their house) often end up having to find hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for care.
And as the Mail has documented in recent weeks, many dementia victims have no option but to sell their homes – what would have been their hard-earned legacy for loved ones – to release the funds.
This is deeply distressing for them and their families at such a worrying time in their lives. It is not acceptable.
Thanks to the artificial distinction between social care and health care, people with dementia are routinely discriminated against. Someone who has cancer, heart disease or a stroke, is entitled to NHS care, free at the point of use and regardless of any ability to pay.
But if you are unfortunate enough to get dementia, you will more than likely have to fend for yourself. This lottery of who gets care and support and who doesn’t cannot be right.
We need to find a fairer, more equitable and sustainable way of looking after the nation’s elderly. It is not only the morally right thing to do. It will also help relieve pressure on struggling local hospitals and other NHS services.
The failure to fix social care has left many people stuck in hospital – the so-called bed-blockers – because there is no support in place when they are discharged home.
This leaves thousands of other patients stranded on waiting lists until a bed becomes free.
The impact on the families of dementia sufferers has wider ramifications too. Some individuals have no option but to give up their jobs to join the army of 5.4million unpaid carers across the country.
This is having a profoundly negative effect on our economy.
Boris Johnson’s promise to inject extra money into the NHS is welcome but we need that revolution he promised in reforming social care, too.
Another report we have published today shows the major gap in funding that local councils face in meeting the care needs of their residents. To maintain current standards, a cash injection of £1.1billion to £2.5billion is required.
Successive governments have ducked this issue, and there must be cross-party consensus to solve this crisis.
The hundreds of thousands of people who are being let down on a daily basis deserve nothing less.
Niall Dickson is chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which leads the Health for Care coalition of 15 national health organisations. Follow him on Twitter at @NHSC_Niall. This article was first published in the Daily Mail.