There is no doubt our health and social care system is now in crisis.
Our ageing population is something to be celebrated. But with overstretched resources and funding cuts totalling £4.6 billion over the last five years, this means the UK’s sick, elderly and disabled are not being looked after properly.
This is a humanitarian crisis and without funding it will not only persist, but get worse.
What do health and social care cuts mean for people?
Cuts to health and social care are forcing more people into crisis and causing unnecessary suffering. More people are increasingly finding they have no one to help them with everyday care needs.
This means people are not getting their medicine or being washed. It means people are left with nobody to change their urinary catheter. It means people might fall and not be found for days.
It also means family members, who are sometimes not well themselves, are struggling to help their loved ones with day-to-day tasks.
The British Red Cross helps more than 80,000 people a year through our 160 independent living services across the UK.
But as the care situation deteriorates, our staff and volunteers are being brought in to help people in these situations who have nowhere else to turn.
What could improve health and social care in the UK?
It is now widely recognised that 'prevention is better than cure'. Low-level practical and emotional support early on can help vulnerable people live independently in their own homes.
It can also reduce costs for both individuals and the public purse.
In 2014, the ambition to shift towards a truly preventative system was enshrined in law via the Care Act. Prevention is also a key component of the NHS Five Year Forward View.
These initiatives show a real willingness to change the way the system works. Yet with overstretched resources, local authorities are struggling to meet their statutory duties let alone invest in services that prevent, reduce and delay the need for care.
In fact, local authority spend on prevention has reduced since these initiatives have come into force.
As part of the Care and Support Alliance, which brings together more than 80 of the UK’s leading charities, we are urging the Government to:
- Provide immediate funding to stabilise the system.
- Take real steps towards creating a sustainable funding settlement for the future. This should include that initiatives, such as the Care Act’s prevention duty and the NHS Five Year Forward View, getting additional funding so they can be implemented in a meaningful way.
Without this two-fold approach, initiatives will continue to be mere ambitions and the vicious cycle of an overstretched and continuously underfunded system will persist.