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Social care funding shortfall hits health

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Delayed transfers of care between health and social services cost the NHS £545,000 a day, equating to approximately £200 million a year, the NHS Confederation has warned.

In its report Papering over the cracks, published last week, the Confederation calls for a cross-party political consensus to address the immediate cash shortfall in social care and the need for a long-term funding solution. It states that, without further action on funding, basic social care for the elderly may not be available in the future.

With the number of people aged over 65 projected to grow by 50 per cent over the next 20 years, demand for local authority-funded social care is rising, the report says; 66 per cent of NHS decision makers highlighted shortfalls in local authority funding, which impacted on their services in the past year.

In 2010, the government allocated an extra £2 billion a year to social care by 2014/15, with £1 billion coming from the NHS; and in 2012, it pledged to contribute £300 million over two years from NHS savings.

However, implementation of the Dilnot proposals, to cap social care costs at £35,000 per individual, is required to plug the £2 billion gap in long-term social care funding, according to the Confederation.

Deputy policy director Jo Weber told Independent Nurse: 'We have a social care system that needs more funding and the Dilnot proposals are the only ones that make credible sense. The government can't kick this problem into the long-grass or take the knee jerk reaction of taking money from the NHS - this is not a solution.'

NHS Confederation figures suggest people who need social care, are more likely to use the NHS.

'Without social care support, such as healthcare assistants, home helps or meals on wheels, primary care nurses will find it hard to keep older people independent,' said Ms Weber. They will find themselves dealing with crisis management rather than preventive care.'

RCN head of policy Howard Catton said: 'If there is a breakdown in social care support, nurses will be able to see that impact on their patients. Social care helps people maintain independence and without this there could be a spiral into health break down.'

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