Simon Stevens has told a House of Lords committee that cash must be injected into the NHS urgently if a social care crisis is to be averted.
The NHS head suggested that compulsory insurance to cover the cost of care home fees could become a reality if this is not forthcoming.
Despite government claims to the contrary, the deterioration in social care services had become unarguable according to Stevens.
The chief executive was speaking before the Committee on Long Term Sustainability of the NHS.
“I think there is a very strong case for some immediate support now. There is an immediacy,” Stevens began. “We need to go beyond just thinking about the health and social care funding and also think about whats happening in the benefits system, the pension system and so forth.”
Stevens also spoke about the potential of long-term compulsory insurance, and even offered tacit support for this concept, if certain conditions are met.
“If we are looking at some form of insurance model it needs to be some form of social insurance model or mandatory long term care coverage, because I think you get market failure in private insurance markets for long-term care”.
Labour peer Lord Lipsey questioned Stevens on social care, asking him about the severity of the current situation.
“Surely the most immediate, now crisis-level, problem is that there just isn’t enough social care. You’ve got 26 per cent less people living at home supported by local authority carers. You’ve got 5,000 care home beds already lost in the last year and many more under threat. So more and more, you’ve got to put up people in your hospitals because there is nowhere else to go. Isn’t that the priority crisis that faces us over the next few years?”
Stevens simply answered bluntly in the affirmative.
Lord McColl, a former surgeon, was similarly straightforward on the severity of the current social care situation.
“We are in the middle of the worst epidemic for 97 years – the obesity epidemic – which is, as you know, causing huge increases in diabetes, dementia, heart disease, joint disease, cirrhosis of the liver and so on.”
Speaking at the same hearing, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that “we are going to have to find a way of devoting a greater share of our national resources into health and social care without doubt”.
Hunt went on to outline his vision of the social care future in the existing economic climate.
“If the economy continues to grow then it is a choice for governments to continue with the current funding model. I personally think it is a pretty sensible choice and its probably the choice closest to what most British people want”.
The social care crisis is particularly catalysed by a greying population, and Hunt concurred that this was an issue speaking before the commission.