Budget 2021: NHS backlog ‘will take longer to clear without urgent social care funds’, says LGA

The NHS Confederation and LGA have joined forces to urge Rishi Sunak to allocate money to help prevent hospital admissions

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The NHS backlog will take longer to clear without extra funding for social care in this week’s Budget, bodies representing councils and healthcare groups have warned.

The social care sector must benefit from significant national funding to tackle immediate pressures, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) and the NHS Confederation.

The two organisations have joined forces to urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to allocate money to help prevent hospital admissions and enable people to be discharged safely into their homes without delay.

Care bodies have been warning for weeks that staffing pressures are leading to people who are medically fit to be discharged home remaining in hospital because there are no arrangements for their care for when they return.

The LGA and NHS Confederation say the spending review must address “severe and mounting pressures” that are leading to growing unmet need, increased strain on the workforce and unpaid carers, and greater pressure on an unstable market.

They say increasing council tax would not be sufficient because it would lead to varying amounts being raised in different local areas, unrelated to need.

The Government has pledged to invest £36 billion from April 2022, to be funded through a UK-wide health and social care levy based on national insurance contributions paid by working adults.

Most of the money in the first three years will go towards the NHS, with social care receiving £5.4 billion.

More money will be diverted to the sector after the three years as people hit the cap, but it is not clear how much the sector will receive at this point.

An immediate £162.5 million fund to help the sector recruit and keep staff was also announced last week to help ease pressures as providers head into a winter that is anticipated to be more challenging than usual.

The NHS Confederation and LGA said this will help make staff ratios safer and tackle significant challenges in filling new posts and retaining staff.

But they said it must be seen in the context of wider pressures, with the LGA estimating that £1.5 billion is needed now to stabilise the market and £1.1 billion a year to meet extra costs from rising demand.

They are calling for the Government to set out a plan for sustainable funding rather than continuing to give the sector “one-off, time-limited” funding injections.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable adult social care system.

He continued: “It is clear that our health and care system faces a hugely difficult winter ahead. Councils will continue to work hard with the local NHS amid unprecedented funding pressures to try and help people live independently and reduce demand on the health service.

“Immediate extra funding is needed in the spending review to help avoid a situation where people spend longer in hospital, rather than in their own home and communities – or having their operations cancelled more regularly – as NHS pressures become unsustainable this winter and councils are left increasingly powerless to help.”

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “Healthcare leaders know how closely linked health and social care services are, they are sister services so when one suffers so does the other.

“While they are grateful for the additional investment given to help tackle the elective care waiting list, they are aware that a well-funded and good quality social care sector is also vital to a healthy nation and a strong and well-performing NHS.

“New short-term funding which addresses the present crisis is urgently needed ahead of what will be a perilous winter, but we also need long-term funding to radically improve services and improve the recruitment and retention of social care staff.”