The Cost of Ageing: Why Labour should integrate health and social care

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We face a challenging future with an increasing population and one that is ageing rapidly. Statistics show that one in six of the UK’s population are over 65. However our public services in health and social care, two areas many older people are dependent on, face a catastrophe of over burden and underfunding if this Tory-led government continue to strangle public spending and investment in health and social care.

We have heard this government’s hollow promises about protecting the NHS, yet their Health and Social Care Act 2012 has begun the process of dismantling and gutting the National Health Service by private firms; who are cherry picking the best (profitable) parts and providing very little in patient care and satisfaction. Cameron and his Lib-Dem allies have shown a blatant disregard for the health and well being of the general public and it’s most vulnerable people.

As a former Care Quality Commission (CQC) compliance inspector I saw first hand how the failure of health and social care can lead to poorer outcomes for older people, especially in deprived areas like my own in Newham. If professionals in health and social care could communicate and share information in an integrated system many of the failures in care we see could be greatly reduced.

older man

Local councils up and down the country where social care is often administered are facing devastating cuts to public spending; this is being felt profoundly in Labour held councils which compared to their conservative counterparts have to absorb the brunt of financial restraint. The Local Government Association (LGA) has said that they have made £5bn of cuts since June 2010. This on top of a 2.9% cut in overall Government funding for 2014/15 has seen services reduce or disappear all together. The pressures on local government to fulfil their duties to older people and manage deep cuts are and will be immense.

Labour’s health and social care policy review in 2013, introduced by Shadow Secretary for Health Andy Burnham MP, has shown that by integrating these two sectors, which are already so closely inter-related, you not only reduce long term hospitalisation which is costly to an older person in terms of health outcomes but you can also save money. Better cooperation in health and social care can identify and address the needs of older people quicker and ‘prevent’ long term stays in hospital. The old adage ‘‘prevention is better than cure’’ rings very true here. There may be those who are wary of another NHS reorganisation but unlike the Tories a Labour government would have the best interests of our ageing population in mind. Structural changes need not be onerous on our already hard working health service and its staff.

The next Labour government post-2015 will have to show credibility in managing the national budget and keeping our debt at an acceptable level. With so many competing interests this will be a key priority but what is abundantly clear is that only by backing a Labour win in 2015 can we secure an integrated health and social care system. In opposition we have shown a tremendous amount of resilience and vision to begin shaping a credible health and social care policy backed by high profile campaigns and targeted speeches in parliament. Labour MPs and activists have called for greater protection of NHS hospitals from closure, integration of services, and more funds made available to ensure older people have the well funded and crucial services they need to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

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