Social care crisis cannot be ignored, ministers warned
The country faces a "social care crisis" unless funding is increased, with knock-on effects likely to add to pressures on hospital A&E departments over the winter, ministers have been warned.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has come under fire after failing to allocate more money to social care in his Autumn Statement last week, with the head of the NHS Confederation saying it was "disappointing" and a "mistake".
More than half of councils tasked with care for the elderly - 77 out of 152 - have had at least one residential and nursing care provider closed in the last six months, figures obtained by the Observer showed.
Meanwhile, 48 councils have seen at least one company that deals with helping to care for the elderly in their own home forced to close, according to the data.
New care arrangements were also sought by 59 councils after contracts were deemed by providers to be insufficiently funded to meet the needs required.
In a letter to the paper, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent groups of the Local Government Association warned: "The social care crisis is real and it is happening right now. The Government cannot ignore it any longer if we are to truly have a society that works for everyone."
They said: "The fact the Government appears to have chosen not to act will lower the quality of life for our elderly and vulnerable residents."
NHS Confederation chairman Stephen Dorrell said he was " very disappointed" that the Chancellor had not said anything about social care in his mini-budget statement.
"It was a mistake in my view not to make an investment in social care," Tory former health secretary Mr Dorrell said.
Hospitals face problems with so-called bed blocking because they are unable to discharge elderly patients unless there are adequate social care arrangements in place, adding to winter pressures on the NHS.
Mr Dorrell told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "There is no good going into this winter saying it is all going to be all right when we already have lengthening queues in A&E departments, we already have problems with hospitals unable to discharge people because of inadequate provision of social care."
A Government spokesman said: "We're supporting those most in need with a social care package worth £3.5 billion by 2019-20 compared to the £2.9 billion councils said they needed.
"We've also devolved new powers and funding to local areas so they can integrate health and social care, provide better services for older people, and plan for an ageing population."
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Labour would give the health service "the funding it needs" - but would not specify how his party would pay for it.
He told BBC's Sunday Politics: "I will want to work with John McDonnell, our shadow chancellor, to find a package to give the NHS the money it needs.
"But of course our shadow chancellor, like any shadow chancellor at this stage in the cycle, will want to see what the books look like on the latest financial statement ahead of an election before making commitments."
But he insisted that the plan was "not a blank cheque" for the NHS.