Giving social care billions needed to clear Covid backlog a bad idea, NHS leaders tell Truss – iNews

NHS leaders have condemned Liz Truss’s proposal to take money earmarked to help clear the Covid backlog and give it to social care saying it will make waiting lists even longer.
The Foreign Secretary told a leadership hustings in the West Midlands on Tuesday night that too much of the Government’s £13bn package to address Covid backlogs and overhaul social care was going into the health service. She said she would divert billions in an effort to free hospital beds.
“Quite a lot has gone to the NHS,” Ms Truss told the hustings. “I would give it to local authorities. We have people in beds in the NHS who would be better off in social care. So put that money into social care.”
NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders, said the idea would “put the brakes” on attempts to bring down waiting lists for non-urgent operations, currently approaching 7 million people in England.
Interim chief executive Saffron Cordery told i: “Cutting waiting times for NHS care is a priority, and huge strides have been made with the list of those waiting for two years or more almost eliminated. The welcome extra investment from the Health and Social Care Levy, announced by the Government as vital funding to clear care backlogs and to deliver the biggest catch up programme in the history of the NHS, has helped trusts to boost activity.
“Social care also needs more funding urgently. Years of underinvestment in this vital sector has had serious knock-on effects on the NHS, including preventing hospital patients being discharged promptly from beds to continue recovery closer to home – and leaving ambulances to queue up outside busy A&E departments waiting to bring in more patients. But taking away this money from the NHS will put the brakes on the elective recovery plan and efforts to bring down long waiting lists.”
Doctors’ Association UK condemned the decision. Dr Matt Kneale, co-chair of the grassroots lobbying group, said: “The strategy announced by Liz Truss is a caricature of the Conservative approach to NHS funding for over a decade — never adequate and instead the system is made to fight for scraps. Despite this, it is challenged with now tackling the largest backlog of cases it has ever seen, with nearly 7 million patients suffering and an ever-shrinking pool of staff to provide services.
“Without a steadfast long-term plan to tackle a staffing exodus, backlogs and social care provision, the mission has failed before it has even begun.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “If this means more money for social care, should Liz Truss become Prime Minister, then that would be very welcome, but it mustn’t result in the NHS getting less money than expected because their budgets are over stretched as it is, as demand for healthcare services surges due to the pandemic. If Ms Truss wins the contest we will await further details with great interest – the detail will really matter.”
The British Medical Association said it was “a false economy” to take from one part of the system to give it to another.
Dr Emma Runswick, BMA council deputy chair, said: “Patients are already waiting too long to be seen and suffering as a result, despite staff across the board doing all they can in an attempt to meet their needs. Instead of simply moving existing investment around, politicians should be focusing on properly resourcing the whole system, ensuring no part is lacking.
“Funding for the health and social care system is a political choice. It shouldn’t be a question of funding health or social care, but both. Given Liz Truss’s comments about tax cuts and spending in other areas, there is clearly resource available. Removing investment from the NHS at such a pivotal time would be disastrous for staff and patients alike.”
Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “It is important there is recognition of the dreadful state of affairs in the system caused by patients not being able to leave hospital when medically fit to create a free bed for the next patient. The dilemma here is that such long-term erosion of the foundations of health and social care provision means that by taking from one issue to try to solve another, the voids will still exist.
“There has been a lack of action over a sustained period on key areas such as social care, recruitment and bed capacity and this combination has led us to the crisis we are experiencing. Workforce constraints will remain the largest barrier to the success of both short and long-term strategies to stabilise the NHS and, therefore, any plans must address this fundamental problem.”
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