The Royal College of General Practitioners
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:
“GPs are facing unprecedented pressures in trying to care for increasing numbers of patients with increasingly limited resources. But we are well aware of the strain felt by our social care colleagues and it would be misguided to think that funding cuts to one sector do not impact the other.
“The RCGP strongly supports integrated services and we need to work in tandem with our colleagues in social care and wider community health teams to improve the long-term care that our patients receive. It is a false economy, for example, to identify and diagnose more and more patients with mental health problems, if there are not the appropriate resources in the community for us to refer them on to.
“The RCGP has a long history of joint working with other services in primary and community care in the best interests of our patients. We recently produced joint guidance with The College of Social Work to highlight how better integrated services allow us to care for our patients close to home, where they want and need care most, not in hospitals where care is more expensive.
“We believe that the way to best improve patient care and keep the NHS – and, in turn, wider care systems – sustainable is to invest properly in general practice and to ensure that we have enough GPs to cope with the demand of our growing and ageing population.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says:
“This survey highlights just how bad a state the social care system is now in, and the hugely damaging knock-ons for older people’s health and wellbeing as the pressures on GPs become more intense.
“We know that funding for social care has fallen dramatically and that without it older people are more likely to end up in their GP surgery or even in A & E because they have nowhere else to turn.
“Social care is a crucial pressure valve for the NHS and this survey shows how devastating the impact is when it is too diminished to fulfil that function. This can’t go on, we must fill the funding gap in social care if the NHS is to thrive.”
George McNamara, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘Social services have been cut to the bone, increasing pressures on already stretched GP and hospital services. The situation is unsustainable and threatens to push thousands of vulnerable older people, many with dementia, into crisis.
‘Political parties must stop treating social care as the poor relation of the better funded NHS. The government knows that reform and full integration is a necessity, but this can’t be achieved on a shoe-string budget. We fully support the call for serious investment in care in the next budget.’
In response to research from the Care and Support Alliance which finds that 90 per cent of GPs believe social care services are not providing a sufficient level of care for patients, UK charity Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Campaigns Director Andy Cole said:
“The care system is in crisis. More and more of us need support with everyday living but prolonged underfunding has left hundreds of thousands of people without the vital help they need. Even those who do qualify for help are too often left facing the reality of undignified 15-minute care visits and having to make the impossible choice between having a cup of tea or going to the loo.
The message from GPs is clear – cuts to social care are placing tremendous pressure on the NHS, which is left to pick up the pieces when disabled and older people slip into crisis.
To put this right, health, housing, and social care must work more closely together. This means increasing funding for social care as well as ensuring we have an adequate supply of disabled-friendly housing in the UK.
Ahead of next week’s budget, we are calling on the Government to commit to a new settlement for vital care services and an urgent review of housing options for disabled and older people.”
In response to the poll, Home Group, one of the largest providers of social care in the UK, says urgent change is needed in order to relieve the pressure on GP surgeries and other parts of the health system.
Rachael Byrne, executive director of care and support at Home Group, said: “The message is clear from GPs: Social care provision is in crisis and far too much pressure is being unfairly placed on an already buckling system.
“This unnecessary reliance is having a knock on effect on other parts of the health service like GP surgeries and A&E departments and, with further reductions planned, this problem is only going to worsen.”
Home Group says part of the solution would be for the government to do more to deliver on preventative care measures, allowing demand on the system to be better managed.
“Delivering improved outcomes and quality of lives for patients will enable tight budgets to go further,” added Ms Byrne.
“If qualified providers, like Home Group and the many others also working in this sector, were given the opportunity to be a greater part of a more joined up approach to social care, we would instantly be able to relieve the pressure on GPs and ease the pressure on hospital bed availability.”
“Whilst reforms like the Care Act, which will come into effect from 1st April, provides a transformational vision for social care, it must also be matched by a sustainable funding settlement for the future. Only once this is in place can we truly have a national care system to be proud of.”
The National Autistic Society
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society (NAS), said: “This poll of GPs is proof that the historic lack of investment in social care and support is a false economy, leading to greater pressures and costs elsewhere in the health and care system, such as GPs surgeries and hospitals.
“Many people with autism need support to help them around the home with things others take for granted like washing, cooking a meal, paying bills or getting out into the community. But all too often they are unable to get any help until they reach crisis point, when their needs are much more complex and care and support is more costly. An NAS survey which found that a third of adults with autism developed mental health problems because of a lack of support.
“The Chancellor must take action in his budget next week to reverse the long standing under-investment in care.”
Sue Brown, Head of Public Policy at Sense, said:
“These findings serve as a stark warning to the Government that protecting NHS funding while cutting social care is costly and short sighted.
“Older and disabled people are at huge risk of missing out on the services they desperately need to lead active lives and be part of the community. Without that support, people become isolated and often slip into crisis adding to pressures on the health service. For example, the people we support at Sense can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care.
“A commitment must be made by the Government to release enough funds for local authorities to provide the right level of support to everyone who needs it.”