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News - May 2017

Mixed reaction to budget funding boost

Mixed reaction to budget funding boost

While a £2billion boost for social care, unveiled in the 2017 Budget, is being widely welcomed, the Government is being warned that the funding will not take pressure off struggling NHS services.

In his Budget speech last month, Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said his plans would provide a ‘strong, stable platform for Brexit’.

However, he has been heavily criticised by top medics for failing to provide ‘meaningful financial assistance’ for the NHS, which is stretched to breaking point across the country.

He announced a £2billion funding package over the next three years to enhance social care in an effort to get older people out of hospital more quickly. So-called bedblockers cost the NHS a staggering £800m a year.

On top of this funding, he revealed a one-off £100m moneypot to pay for GPs to work in A&E departments to sort out ‘inappropriate’ visits.

Scratch the surface

And an additional £325m will be given to NHS organisations to fund the much-maligned Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

But, while the money was welcomed, the Chancellor was accused of not going far enough to save health services.

British Medical Association chairman, Mark Porter, said: “Our health service is one of the best health services in the world, but is increasingly failing too many people for too much of the time.

“We need politicians from all sides to come together to agree a long-term solution to the challenges facing health and social care.”

He added that the £100m for A&E GPs would not even scratch the surface of the problem, and revealed that at least £9.5billion was thought to be needed to get the Sustainability and Transformation Plans off the ground.

He added: “This budget does nothing to address the gaping hole in NHS finances.

“The crisis in the NHS doesn’t stop at the hospital door - our emergency departments are struggling because of an overstretched system. Having GPs in emergency care won’t reduce admissions - if anything this could have the effect of attracting more patients to hospitals.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the General Practitioners Committee, agreed. He said: “GPs and their staff are struggling on a daily basis to cope with rising patient demand, stagnating budgets, and endemic workforce shortages that have left many GP practices unable to deliver enough appointments to patients.

“Putting GPs in A&E will do nothing to address this crisis.”

While welcoming the extra cash for social care, charities supporting the elderly also voiced their concern.

Emily Holzhausen OBE, policy director at Carers UK, said: “It is a welcome sign that the Chancellor has recognised the current critical pressure that social care is under by allocating another £1billion to social care in the next financial year and a further £1billion over the following two years.

“But this funding announcement is by no means the end to the continuing problem of inadequate social care funding.”

And she welcomed Hammond’s announcement that a Green Paper would be produced later this year on the future financing of social care.

A fair deal

“The Government must develop, secure, and implement a robust and sustainable funding solution for care which provides a fairer deal for families,” she added.

“With an ageing population, this must be done in a timely way, or social care will continue to remain in crisis.”

Dr Eileen Burns, president of the British Geriatrics Society and a clinical director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We believe that the inter-dependent nature of health and social care services means the long-term sustainability of the NHS can only be secured if there is sufficient investment in both health and social care.”

And, just recently, GMB Southern, the union for care workers, commented on a BBC Panorama investigation which revealed that the funding squeeze has seen care contracts cancelled with 95 councils.

Paul Maloney, GMB Southern region secretary, said: “The crisis is the product of chronic underfunding by successive governments and society’s failure to face up to its responsibility to care for those who paid tax and national insurance all their lives in their times of need.

“This is a false economy. It is giving rise to bed blocking in the NHS and a potential rise in the neglect of the most-vulnerable elderly in our society.

“As well as more funding, councils should look at employing their own home help staff as was the case in previous years.”

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