UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Who Cares?

There has been much talk of late about the need to integrate health and social care. UNISON members working in the NHS and the care sector understand the need for more joined up thinking but the problems facing front line staff are now being given some attention by economists and leader writers.

In yesterday's Financial Times Sarah Neville - its Public Policy Editor - sets out the challenges government will face in further shrinking public sector spending.

We know that local authorities have been forced to cut spending on adult social care by £991 million but spending on the NHS continues to rise. In 1978/79 health consumed 10% of overall public spending; it currently accounts for 25% and by 2060 will hit 33%.

Even with this massive spend the nightmare of "bed blocking" has returned to our hospitals. UNISON members working on busy wards face problems on a daily basis. Without the essential community support or quality residential care how can they discharge vulnerable patients? The patient stays - at a cost to the NHS of up to £2000 per week per bed.

Doing nothing about this is not an option. This is the big one, the greatest public policy challenge of our times.

It should be a good news story - and a testament to our fantastic NHS - that more and more people are living longer, healthier lives - but you wouldn't think so.

We have to find new ways of funding and delivering social care and its not just about older citizens its also about those with lifelong conditions. We face rising demand, increasing costs and growing complexity in the provision of care. Just ask a UNISON member working on the front line.

We have the Dilnot report but we need action and action in this Parliament. Legislation has to be introduced to establish a sustainable legal and financial framework for adult social care.

Government and policy planners could do worse than listen to those workers who provide these services day in day out; to those needing care and to the carers - and there are 6 million family carers in the UK.

There is no zero cost option for social care. But then again there was no zero cost option for any of the military interventions we have engaged in over recent times.

We can't wait until after the General Election in 2015 just because some Treasury officials think this is unaffordable or because politicians claim that there are more pressing issues,

Just over 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson defined the role of the state in simple terms: "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

Just get on with it.

Frank Hont