It has been known for decades that our health and social care system would not cope forever with a population living longer and requiring ever more diverse means of support and treatment.
In the past 20 years there have been at least four independent reviews (including the Wanless and Dilnot reports), four consultations, and five white and green papers, all recommending how this problem might be tackled.
Sadly, Governments of all political persuasions have failed to act, fearing that their political opponents would cynically exploit any attempt to have a “big” and “difficult” conversation with the public about the measures needed to make health and social care sustainable, which could include more taxation and faster modernisation.
The most recent meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council offered a small, local illustration of why political progress has been so slow. Labour councillors moved a ‘Corbynite’ motion which blamed the Coalition Government Spending Review of 2010 for the social care funding challenge and demanded that the current Government urgently “make available” £2.3billion for social care services.
Conservative councillors duly reminded their Labour counterparts that the 2010 Spending Review was a reaction to the financial mess left by the Blair/Brown governments. Indeed, Richard Humphries, assistant director of Policy at The Kings Fund, wrote last November: ‘The current malaise pre-dates austerity – spending was already falling in real terms by the end of the last decade.’
Conservative councillors also pointed out that a government doesn’t have any money of its own. The bill for extra funding, be it the Kings Fund’s recommended £2.3b or any other figure, ultimately falls upon the public.
Needless to say, a heated debate ensued, and an opportunity was missed to agree what could have been a very constructive motion calling on “all parties at national level to work together to establish a national base for funding social care”.
Labour and Liberal Democrats voted this down, preferring to make political capital, instead of taking the opportunity to come together to support the people of Nottinghamshire.
Councillor Stuart Wallace
Conservative Spokesman for Adult Social Care & Health