Prime Minister unveils £36bn pledge to reform health and social care services

Moneypot will address COVID backlog and fund social care services, paid for by a controversial new Health and Social Care Levy

The moneypot will enable a new cap on care costs, helping to improve access to services
The moneypot will enable a new cap on care costs, helping to improve access to services

Healthcare commentators have cautiously welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a £36bn funding boost for health and social care, but are warning it may be too little, too late.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson set out ‘responsible, fair, and necessary’ plans to tackle the COVID backlog, reform adult social care, and bring the health and social care system closer together on a long-term, sustainable footing.

And he revealed that £36bn will be invested in the health and care system over the next three years to ensure it has the long-term resource it needs.

And patients will benefit from the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’s history, so people no longer face excessive waits for treatment.

Everyone will pay

To fund the reforms, from April the Government will introduce a new, UK-wide 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy, ringfenced for health and social care.

This will be based on National Insurance contributions (NICs) and from 2023 will be legislatively separate.

To ensure everyone contributes fairly, all working adults, including those over the state pension age, will pay the levy and the rates of dividend tax will also increase by 1.25% to help fund the package.

And employers, who benefit from a healthy workforce and a taxpayer-funded health service, will be asked to contribute so the costs are more widely shared.

This will raise around £12billion in extra funding per year, to be invested in frontline health and social care across the UK over the next three years.

While this plan certainly does not 'fix' adult social care, as the PM had promised, it is the most-significant step forward for a generation

But, while industry experts have welcomed the cash, and the long-awaited reform of social care services, they are warning that the three-year funding settlement may not be enough to address the key issues in the long term.

Richard Murray, chief executive of health thinktank, The King’s Fund, said: “Overall, we welcome the historic levels of investment in both the NHS and social care and the fact the Government has finally grasped the nettle of social care reform.

“However, a large dose of realism is needed in terms of what this money will be able to deliver, and how fast.”

He added: “Social care will see only £5.4billion over three years, with no guarantees of sustainable funding beyond this.

“The cap on care costs – which will consume nearly half the funding – will protect people from the very-high costs of long stays in residential care, but setting it at £86,000 means it will help relatively few people.

Recruitment is key

“And the changes to the means test are very welcome and will bring thousands more people into the publicly-funded system. However, there is a real risk this will leave inadequate funding to bring about meaningful change in areas such as workforce, access, and quality.

“While this plan certainly does not 'fix' adult social care, as the PM had promised, it is the most-significant step forward for a generation.”

And on the plans to address the COVID backlog, he said recruitment was key, adding: “Today’s three-year funding settlement represents very-significant investment in the NHS, but it is important to be realistic about how quickly the service can clear the waiting list.

This significant £12billion-a-year long-term increase in public spending will improve people’s lives across the UK, but our health and social care systems cannot be rebuilt without difficult decisions

“While we have yet to see the finer detail of the settlement, putting this funding to best use will critically depend on developing a plan to address chronic workforce shortages.

“Public expectations will rise with their taxes and the Government must be honest about how long it will take to recruit and train enough staff to provide the tangible improvements to NHS care the public will expect.”

Johnson’s announcement comes as the number of patients waiting for elective surgery and routine treatment in England is now at a record high of 5.5 million, rising to an estimated 13 million by the end of the year if left unchecked.

Before the pandemic, nine out of 10 patients were waiting fewer than 25 weeks in England. This has now risen to 44 weeks.

To fix this, the NHS needs to be able to offer more appointments, operations, and treatments.

And, rather than simply plugging the gaps, new, innovative practices must be pushed forward so patients continue to receive the best-possible care.

The new funding is expected to fund an extra nine million checks, scans, and operations.

Fixing all the problems together

Speaking in the House, Johnson said: “You can’t fix the COVID backlogs without giving the NHS the money it needs; you can’t fix the NHS without fixing social care; you can’t fix social care without removing the fear of losing everything to pay for it; and you can’t fix health and social care without long-term reform.

“The plan I am setting out will fix all of these problems together.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, added: “We’re tackling the NHS backlog and taking decisive action to fix our broken social care system.

Public expectations will rise with their taxes and the Government must be honest about how long it will take to recruit and train enough staff to provide the tangible improvements to NHS care the public will expect

“This significant £12billion-a-year long-term increase in public spending will improve people’s lives across the UK, but our health and social care systems cannot be rebuilt without difficult decisions.

“The new Health and Social Care Levy is the necessary and responsible thing to do to protect the NHS, sharing the cost between businesses and individuals and ensuring those earning more pay more.”

And Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Our nurses, doctors and care workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic in our hour of need.

“But the pandemic has taken its toll - waiting times are longer than ever before and social care is under even greater pressure.

“This additional funding is a critical investment in our country’s future - it will give the NHS the extra capacity it needs to get back on its feet and is a vital first step in the reform of our broken care system.”

 

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