The country's social care system needs a good shake up - Mike Hill MP

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged to inject an extra £1.86bn into the NHS; £850m of which will be spent on 20 hospital improvement schemes up and down the country, non of which are in Hartlepool or the Tees Valley region.

By Mike Hill
Thursday, 08 August, 2019, 10:00
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being urged to provide an NHS dementia fund. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

While such a cash injection has to be welcomed at £3.5m per week, it’s a fraction of the £350m per week promised to the NHS by Boris as he toured the country on his infamous ‘Brexit Bus’ during the 2016 referendum and falls well short of the actual amount needed to address the backlog of repairs and maintenance work after years of austerity imposed by his very own party in Government. According to the Nuffield Trust the backlog amounts to around £6bn.

To be fair to the Prime Minister, he was right to point out in The Sunday Times that the ‘Injustice’ in the NHS also affects social care, even though no specific monies have been set aside and the long awaited Government Green Paper on social care funding has been again kicked into the long grass.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of the honour I had of meeting victims of dementia at a recent event held by the Alzheimer’s Society in the House of Commons.

There I met not only people afflicted by this terrible condition, but also their families; people who’s ordinary lives had literally been turned upside down by the onset of dementia. I make no apologies for banging on about this time and time again because it’s an important issue that can affect anybody at any time, but more importantly with an ageing population it is leading to a potential car crash in the care sector if we don’t address it now.

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Those who know me will say I am always commenting that the next biggest public health crisis will be in coping with dementia and that the public sector needs to be robust enough to meet the challenge, meaning that local council’s need to be given fair funding and be allowed to take a lead on the provision of care, rather than wait until we are at crisis point and hand the monopoly of funds over to private care home providers.

Because Dementia is not a recognised health condition, the NHS will not pay for treatment or care home accommodation. Consequently I have spoken with people who have had to sell their homes and lose their savings to pay for the residential care of a loved one. Small wonder that In response to the PM’s announcement over NHS and public health funding the Alzheimer’s Society said it was, “disappointed that social care is once again playing second fiddle”. And added: “We urge the PM to provide an NHS dementia fund to end the injustice people with dementia face today.”

The upshot of all of this is that as we celebrate the centenary of The Addison Act which allowed councils to build homes for ‘working people to rent’, we are a million miles away from that principle applying to people in need of sheltered accommodation or respite care. The whole system needs a good shake before it’s too late.