Government proposals to reform the social care system in England fail to address funding concerns, and will not deliver a service that is fit for purpose, nurses' leaders have warned.
The plans, set out in a White Paper and draft Bill earlier this month, stop short of outlining how much individual patients will be expected to pay for social care. This is despite an independent review, published last summer, recommending a cap of £35,000.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) accepted that such a limit was 'the right basis' for change, but added he would not be able to commit to a figure until the next spending review, which might not happen until 2014.
RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said nurses would be 'disappointed that the government has failed to tackle the critical issue of social care funding', and said more work was needed to ensure the social care system was fit for purpose.
He added: 'Accepting the need for a cap on the amount individuals contribute to costs without any time- scale for implementation will be cold comfort to service users and patients. It also stores up major problems for the future.
'It is nursing staff who are currently dealing with the pressures of delayed transfers between hospital and community settings, restriction on services and confusion over who pays for what.'
The government's proposals outline plans to encourage greater collaboration between health and social care services. They also confirm that personal health budgets - giving patients greater control over how NHS money is spent on their care - are to be extended beyond the current pilot sites.
This will allow patients to 'co-design joined-up services that best meet their needs and goals, and will lead to a higher-quality experience for people who use services, and carers', the White Paper, entitled Caring for our future: reforming care and support, says.
However, chair of BMA Council Dr Mark Porter said he had 'serious concerns' about the introduction of personal health budgets.
'Not only could these leave patients fearful about what will happen when their budget runs out, they could lead to patients receiving differing levels of care and they have the potential to become a bureaucratic nightmare,' he said.