Social care is a key battleground upon which the 2015 general election will be fought, emphasised yesterday by Ed Miliband’s pledge to reform the sector in order to improve its efficiency. The system has been under intense pressure and scrutiny in recent years, and several failings in the past months such as ‘bed blocking’ and severe cuts to council care budgets have been widely criticised by the press and in previous Prestige blogs.
The Labour leader has given his vision of how social care organisation and delivery will look under a Labour government, which when implemented would mark a radical reform of the service. One key feature is that the prevalent and widely condemned culture of 15 minute visits would be disposed of, in a move which would bring many who are currently receiving a bare standard of care back into the fold. The service would be merged with the NHS in a far-reaching overhaul in order to create a more efficient and streamlined service. Staff shortages would be dealt with by the recruitment of an extra 36,000 personnel – 5,000 of whom would be care workers.
While Prestige is positive about any plans to boost social care’s efficiency and end many of the budgetary problems plaguing it, more details are needed about exactly how this would be achieved. Firstly, firm answers are needed about how changes would be funded. While talk of an extra £2.5bn a year for the NHS is all well and good, the public need a clear breakdown of where this will come from rather than vague rhetoric about mansion taxes and closing loopholes. Secondly, merging social care services with the NHS – one of the World’s biggest organisations – will undoubtedly be difficult. If done well, it would signal a new era for the healthcare system and one in which individual needs are considered and delivered. However, the parties involved must avoid getting bogged down in red-tape and bureaucracy while failing to see the larger picture. Communication is key and it is imperative that each different area in the sector works together to achieve a positive end result.