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The election result will not resolve the problems of NHS and social care

With a sigh of relief, the 2019 general election has come and gone at last we can see an end to the parliamentary impasse we have all suffered and now the new conservative government can get on with running the country. Much was said by the conservatives during the election about how they will invest in the NHS, but they were rather more silent on the future of social care.

I still believe social care does not receive the same level of support from the government as that of the NHS. Which I find an anathema, given that the NHS and social care are so explicably linked that their effectiveness and success wholly dependent on the other.

We have talked for so long about bed blocking that could be relieved through the adoption of a strategic approach to the use of domiciliary care. But still we have a situation where people are lying on the floors of NHS hospitals waiting for treatment.

The UK general election result, which saw the Conservatives swept back to power, raises many concerns for patients and people who use social care and gives them little reassurance that the crises facing health and social care will be tackled. The track record of the Tories does not inspire any confidence. We all know how the so-called Green Paper has thus far has amounted to know more than a sop, and a delaying tactic. We can only hope that given the level of the conservative majority we may at last see a solution to the way forward.

Money alone is not the answer

John Kell, head of policy at the independent charity Patients Association, said: “The government’s proposal to enshrine in law a short measure of new funding will not help it. What it needs is a full funding package to cover the parts of its work not included in the investment announced up to now, plus full funding for social care and all the other public services that are crucial to people’s health and wellbeing.”

Rachel Power, chief executive added: “The Conservative Party’s manifesto betrayed its promise to produce a solution to the social care crisis, and contained little, if anything, to help the NHS face what could be its worst winter of modern times.”

I sometimes wonder how far from realty politicians exist. They seem unaware or unwilling to face up to the crises in health and social care. It goes without saying that a great deal more investment is needed. Bit this in itself will not produce the recruitment of the number of nurses and social care workers that are essential to these services. “Pledges to increase workforce numbers underline the dire recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, with 100,000 staff vacancies across the service. The number of full-time GPs has plummeted since a target to increase numbers by 5,000 was set five years ago, so while promises to boost numbers recognise the scale of the problem, politicians must learn from mistakes and broken promises of the past.”

Nor is the situation any better in social care services where there are thousands of vacancies and staff turnover at an alarming rate.

What do we need?

A clear vision of the future of health and social care services that defines treatment as the central role of hospital services, and the role of care and rehabilitation is carried out in domiciliary and community care settings.

An ongoing training programme for nurses and attractive salary to encourage more staff to the NHS. The employment of more auxiliary staff to undertake non nursing duties that will reduce pressure and stress on nursing staff.

Greater recognition of the contribution of social care workers with a structured qualification system that enables career progression and appropriate earnings.

A government that is prepared to take strategic decisions that recognises the crises in social care and the importance of social care services in relieving the pressure on the NHS.

Summary

The election of a new conservative government with a vastly improved majority should one would think enable ministers to make crucial strategic decisions designed to bring clarity to the respective roles of the NHS and social care. History tells us however that previous conservative governments have failed to grasp the nettle on the way forward for social care. The so-called green paper on the future of the sector has failed to materialise having been delayed on numerous occasions.

It is hard to visualise any change soon. Changes in legislation take considerable time to come about. In the end it may come down to more pressure on the NHS along with the more people being deprived of the social care they need that may bring about a catalyst for change and urgent action on behalf of government.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

Image credit: GETTY IMAGES

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