UK needs 'properly resourced' social care plan by 2018, says NHS chief
The UK should have a "properly resourced" social care plan in place by 2018 to help ease the burden on the NHS, the head of the health service has said.
Simon Stevens said there was a need to consider a range of options, including the value of pensions and people's homes.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said that without urgent attention to the "pressing" issue of social care, there would be a big impact on hospitals, GP surgeries and community health services.
More older people would be stuck in hospitals despite being medically fit to leave, he said.
He urged officials to look again at how funding can be raised, including examining the "triple lock", which guarantees Britain's pensioners annual increases in their state pension until 2020.
He said: "Would inter-generational fairness support a further increase in the share of public funding on retirees, at the expense of children and working-age people?
"Does there need to be more flexibility between current disconnected funding streams for older people, so that at times of need everyone is guaranteed high quality social care?"
He added: "What are the pros and cons of dedicating some of the proceeds of the triple lock to older people's social care?"
His comments could raise questions over how he feels about some benefits received by pensioners, such as free TV licences, prescriptions, bus passes and the winter fuel allowance.
In the interview, he also asked whether it could become "easier for families to flexibly fund social care by drawing down resources tied up in housing, pension pots, and other benefits and entitlements".
He went on: "2018 will be the 70th birthday of the NHS. That will be a fitting moment to seek, as the NHS turns 70, a new national consensus on properly resourced and functioning social care services."
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said Mr Stevens was right.
"These issues are just too important to be left to the usual Westminster party politics," she said.
"In the face of a rapidly ageing population, ever increasing demand on services and shrinking budgets, we need an honest and frank debate.
"That is why we support calls for a cross-party commission to consider the health and care system we will need in the future and how we will pay for it."