Back in 2018, the Department of Health was renamed as the Department of Health and Social Care. Like many people, I hoped that this was a sign of three things. Firstly, that the Government was finally going to treat social care – which has been in crisis for some years now – with the same importance as health, secondly that there would be more coordination between the health and social care systems, and thirdly that this meant that they had a plan for how to fix the crisis in social care.
I was disappointed therefore when no plan materialised under Theresa May. Boris Johnson then promised when he entered Downing Street “that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”. Sounds great, but still no plan came. The Tories then promised a plan again in their successful 2019 General Election manifesto. It probably won’t surprise you at all to know that there is still no plan.
Instead, they are floating new reforms to the NHS to undo the last set of reforms that they themselves made. It is welcome that they now admit that these reforms, carried out by Andrew Lansley when he was Health Secretary, aren’t working. However, it is also frustrating that they ignored the warnings from the Labour Party and others about the potential consequences when they were first raised about a decade ago.
It is important though, that some of the very positive work that has been done in recent years aren’t undone in this next set of reforms. In Tameside, we’ve seen a growth in integrated working that has delivered some fantastic results – this is something that we need to keep going forward.
But then we come back again to social care. The Government still has no plan. To me, it seems pointless and counter-productive to push ahead with a plan for the NHS when social care still isn’t sorted. If we are going to have integration between the two systems (which is vital) then any grand plan that the Government has will have to cover both. To reform one without the other has the potential to store up huge problems for the future – and unfortunately it will be ordinary people who pay the price.