Peers call for creation of Department of Health and Care

New Office for Health and Care Sustainability should also be created to identify funding pressures across both sectors

By Emilio Casalicchio

05 Apr 2017

Ministers should create a new Department of Health and Care to end the segregation of the two services and boost their effectiveness, a committee of peers has said.

The Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS blasted the “short-sightedness” of successive governments in planning the long-term future of the health service.

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They also called for an independent commission should be established to map out health and care needs for the next 15-20 years and remove the issue from party politics and urged ministers to boost funding for the health service at the very least in line with rises in GDP for 10 years after 2020.

Committee chairman and cossbench peer Lord Patel said: “The Department of Health at both the political and official level is failing to think beyond the next few years.

“There is a shocking lack of long-term strategic planning in the NHS. This short sightedness stems from the political importance of the NHS and the temptation for politicians to reach for short-term fixes not long-term solutions.”

Alongside moving responsibility for adult social care funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the renamed department, the report also called for a “more ambitious” three-year settlement for social care funding with local authorities alongside a pledge to raise its cash in line with the NHS after 2020.

It lamented that funding in the past has been “too volatile and poorly co-ordinated between health and social care” leaving patients without their needs being met.

Lord Patel added: “We need to recognise the NHS will need more money. NHS spending will need to rise at least as fast as GDP for 10 years after 2020.”

The obstetrician said an independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability should mirror the financial Office for Budget Responsibility and be free to identify health care needs decades ahead as the population morphs and further ages over time.

“We have heard much about the need to integrate health and social care and we think the best way to do that is make the Department of Health responsible for both health and adult social care budgets," he said.

Responding to the report, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This report makes a number of welcome and important recommendations towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of our NHS and adult social care system…

“The Tories have left our health system underfunded and unstaffed. We now need a long term plan for the NHS which tackles this chronic underfunding and invests in staff so patients get the world-class treatment they deserve."

Health think tank the Kings Fund branded the committee release a “bold and thoughtful report should serve as a wake-up call to politicians from all parties to initiate a long overdue debate about how to pay for health and social care in the future”.

Chief executive Chris Ham said: “The NHS has been hampered by cycles of boom and bust while social care has been systematically under-funded for many years.

“We need to start planning for the long-term, and regular independent assessments of funding needs could play a key role in this.”

The government has pledged £2bn extra for social care over the next three years and insisted it has met the stated demands of the health service itself in terms of funding. 

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