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Kings Fund - Health charities warn of £1.9bn social care funding gap

Three leading health charities have issued a call for the government to address a £1.9 billion social care funding gap through the Autumn Statement.

In a new briefing published today ahead of the Autumn Statement on 23 November, the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust analyse the state of health and social care finances, concluding that cuts and rising demand will leave adult social care facing a £1.9 billion funding gap next year.

The three organisations conclude that despite mounting pressures on the NHS, finding money to plug this gap is the most urgent priority. They urge the government to bring forward increases in social care funding planned for later in the parliament through the Better Care Fund to next year, warning that without this, thousands more older and disabled people will be denied access to the care they need, with severe consequences for the NHS.

This follows a nine per cent real terms cut in social care spending by local authorities between 2009/10 and 2014/15, which has led to 400,000 fewer people accessing social care.

The three organisations also warn that the planned increase in the Department of Health's budget between 2015/16 and 2020/21 will not be enough to meet rising demand for services, maintain standards of NHS care and deliver the changes to services set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View. The briefing warns that the pressures on the NHS will peak in 2018/19 and 2019/20, when there is almost no planned growth in real terms funding, and argues that the government will also need to consider additional NHS funding in future financial statements, or be clear about the consequences for patient care.

The analysis shows that health spending in England will increase by £4.2 billion over this parliament, an average rise of 1.1 per cent per year in real terms – almost identical to the increase in the last parliament and much lower than average annual increases of nearly four per cent since the NHS was established, despite rising demand for services. This is much lower than the funding increases for the NHS cited by the government as it covers all health spending, not just the budget for NHS England.

Richard Humphries, assistant director for policy at The King's Fund, said:

“Cuts to social care funding are leaving older and disabled people reliant on an increasingly threadbare local authority safety net. For many, the care they get is based not on what they need but on what they can afford and where they live. More people are left stranded in hospital. This government has committed to creating a country which works for everyone, and they now need to match this with action by using the Autumn Statement to address the critical state of social care.”

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said:

‘'On too many occasions over the last few years the approach to funding for the NHS and care system has been to rob Peter to pay Paul. Social care cut to protect the NHS, budgets to train new doctors and nurses reduced to fund care now, capital budgets raided to meet day-to-day costs. It is absolutely clear that this is not sustainable and has undermined the drive to improve efficiency. While the pressures on the health service are very real, the case to prioritise social care funding in the Autumn Statement is compelling.”

John Appleby, director of research and chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said:

“After years of austerity, by the middle of this parliament we will start to see the amount of NHS money per person actually fall in real terms. In this context, providing high quality healthcare that meets the needs of a growing and ageing population will put the NHS under enormous pressure. We are likely to see this expressed through an explosion in waiting lists, patients being denied new drugs, or hospitals going even further into the red. These would neither be desirable for patients nor for the Government: action is needed."

Notes to editors: 

  • The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.
  • The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. Our aim is a healthier population, supported by high quality health care.
  • The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.

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