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The chief of Care England has called on care homes to look at how they can lead the social care agenda, warning them ‘don’t wait for the Government to find a solution’.
At the end of last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed what the Local Government Association, Age UK, ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) as well as care providers have been saying for years - that the care home market is broken and living on borrowed time.
The CMA warned in its report on the care homes market that finances in the sector are unsustainable. This has led to some providers such as Hallmark Care Homes going down the route of only accepting fee paying residents, saying they cannot afford to take local authority funded residents any longer due to the disparity in fees.
The situation has got so bad for cash strapped councils paying for care, that some local authorities are raiding their ‘rainy day’ money to pay for the 14 per cent rise in demand for care, according to the National Audit Office.
Inequality between health and social care
To address this situation, Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents independent care homes, would like to see more transparency over the cost of health and cost of care.
Speaking at the Future of Care conference, he said: “We should be challenging where the money is going.
“We are always being told we are in an era of austerity, yet the health spend is £140bn and social care spend is £18.2bn. These are enormous figures. Yet there is a disproportionate difference between the spend on health care and the spend on social care.”
He added: “There is a great deal of inequality in our system. What I am clear about is, don’t wait for the Government to find a solution. It is up to us to look at how we deliver the agenda.”
Professor Green believes we need to start thinking “differently about how we deliver social care.
“We need to start building strong partnership across the system. Don’t wait for the system to think about how it can engage with you. We never see any creativity. We just see the commissioning of services that have always been commissioned. Our current model of health and social care is all about crisis. We need to understand people in a much more sophisticated way.”
There has been a lot of talk over the years of integrating health and social care and there was optimism recently when the Department of Health was renamed as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) with Jeremy Hunt becoming the health and social care secretary.
The forthcoming green paper on reforming social care funding has also moved from the Cabinet Office to the DHSC.
Professor Green believes in order to have a truly integrated system that is “totally invisible to the service user you have to have an integrated workforce”.
However he warned: “We as a sector have to lead this agenda. It is important that care services are at the centre of the community.
“Don’t wait for someone else to create this because they won’t. We have to deliver this for ourselves.”
'Social care functioning by skin of its teeth'
Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Association, also spoke at the conference, saying: “Social care is functioning by the skin of its teeth.”
She agreed with Professor Green that care providers need to work together.
“If you have groups of providers working together, everything becomes much easier,” she said.
Dr Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester Healthcare believes one of the stumbling blocks preventing the health system in the UK integrating with the social care system is the politics surrounding the NHS, with its values used emotively to score political points.
He took part in a debate on the future of the care home sector at the conference, saying: "The NHS has gone from being the jewel in the crown to the anchor that stops us from changing. There is such sensitivity about changing the NHS. It is so politically motivated".
The Government revealed at the end of last year that it will publish a green paper on social care for older people by summer 2018.