Social care: time to grasp the nettle

This report explores the opportunities and challenges ahead for health and social care and the four critical factors needed to reset social care.

19 August 2020

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Despite the importance of social care in enabling people’s independence and maintaining dignity, successive governments have failed to adequately support the sector. At present, there are around 1.4 million older people who are not able to access the support they need – inevitably, this number will rise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role that social care plays in the delivery of health and care services. But it has also exacerbated the underlying weaknesses in social care and demonstrated the need for fundamental reform. The Prime Minister came to power promising to ‘fix social care’ within his first 100 days in office and urgently needs to deliver on his commitment.

This report, part of the NHS Reset campaign, explores the opportunities and challenges ahead for health and social care and the four critical factors needed to reset social care.

Key points

  • Health and social care are intrinsically linked. A well-funded and good quality social care sector is fundamental to a well-performing NHS. Without social care reform leading to a sustainable system, backed up by a long-term funding settlement, the NHS will not be able to deliver high-quality care in the wake of the pandemic.
  • There is a need for short-term funding for social care to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19 and the possibility of a second wave or localised outbreaks. But there is also a need for longer-term funding to address the imbalance that was already present in the social care service, as well as a fundamental review of the model of social care provided in England.
  • A key area of focus is tackling the social care workforce. There are 122,000 vacancies in the adult social care sector and a 40 per cent staff turnover rate. A national, integrated health and care workforce strategy would go some way to tackle the crippling workforce issues facing social care. The NHS People Plan missed a golden opportunity to bring together health and social care workforce planning.
  • More needs to be done to support the families who struggle to support themselves and their loved ones. There are at least 5.4 million unpaid carers and half of all homeowners are not confident of having enough money to fund their own care, even if they sell their home. The personal impact on individuals and families can be devastating.
  • Stable funding, a long-term plan, a well-resourced and trained workforce recognised as a profession in the same way as the NHS, and a renewed focus on outcomes-based commissioning will be key to fixing social care. The government must grasp the nettle to honour its commitment to deliver a sustainable social care system.

About NHS Reset

NHS Reset is an NHS Confederation campaign to shape what the health and care system should look like in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognising the sacrifices and achievements of the COVID-19 period, it brings together NHS Confederation members and partners to look at how we rebuild local systems and reset the way we plan, commission and deliver health and care.

Find out more about the campaign.

NHS Reset is part funded through sponsorship by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited.