Britain’s social care crisis is damaging the way care is being delivered across the NHS, health bosses have warned.
A snap poll found that 97% of leaders from NHS Trusts, CCGs and private providers believe that persistent neglect of the social care system is hampering the way the NHS can treat its patients.
A lack of funding in social care means that people are being pushed into inappropriate care settings – ending up in emergency departments, or in crisis because they can’t access community-based care.
Last week, statistics from NHS England showed that demand for services has continued to rise and key targets for hospital care and A&E have hit their worst levels since records began, with 80,000 patients waiting four hours for a bed last month.
More than 130 health leaders took part in the poll conducted by the NHS Confederation, which leads the Health for Care coalition of 15 national health organisations.
Eight in 10 (81%) of the leaders who responded agreed strongly that the social care sector needs a long-term plan and significant investment, like the NHS.
Over 70% said that creating a sustainable social care system was a “critical priority” for their specific setting.
In the run up to the General Election, the Health for Care coalition is asking Parliamentary candidates to pledge their support to fix social care in England so that everyone gets the help they need, when they need it. Alongside this, it has launched the principles upon which a new social care system in England should be based.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This survey demonstrates just how seriously the social care crisis is impacting the NHS. We have seen the most challenging performance figures in recent days and they certainly reflect the fact the health service is having to deliver alongside a social care service that is on its knees.
“We accept all the main political parties say they are committed to tackling this issue, but we now need action not words. And we shall be looking closely at the manifestos to gauge how seriously they are taking the issue.
“Failure to grasp the nettle will mean even more people will go without the care they need and more pressure will be piled onto existing social care staff, as well as an already-stretched NHS.
“With 122,000 vacancies across social care services and 1.4 million people believed to be going without the care and support they need every day, the incoming government must seize the opportunity and come forward with proposals that will last a generation and more.”