Free social care for the over 65s would save the NHS in England £4.5bn a year by enabling more people to receive care in the community, a leading think tank has said.
The IPPR report recommends adopting a system similar to the one already in place in Scotland where older people who could afford to would still pay for their own accommodation but not for personal care wherever they receive it.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR and lead author of the report, said: “If you develop cancer in England you are cared for by the NHS, free at the point of need for as long as it takes, but if you develop dementia you’re likely to have to pay for all your own social care – running up potentially catastrophic costs in the last years of your life. This makes no sense.
“By investing in personal social care so it is free at the point of need for everyone over 65, we can provide a better and more integrated care system, one that’s fairer to us all and saves the NHS £4.5 billion a year.”
The report says the change would increase the number of people with access to state funded care from 185,000 to 440,000.
Covering the costs of free social care would entail a rise in spending from £17bn a year to £36bn by 2030. The report adds that £11bn of the projected rise would arise even within the existing system due to the increasing elderly population, adding there would be benefits for the economy with 70,000 additional jobs to cater for demand.
The IPPR argues that free social care should come via a two percentage point increase in income tax. It cites a recent Independent Age survey which found that 69% of people were willing to pay higher taxes to pay for free social care.
The think tank also suggests a system of integrated health and care commissioners under which GPs, nurses, mental health and social care workers would work locally in integrated teams.