The heads of three Commons committees have urged the Prime Minister to call a cross-party review of the health and social care sector, saying services are ‘at breaking point’.
In a letter to Theresa May, MPs raised fears that other pressing issues such as Brexit and rail strikes meant that the ‘crisis’ in health and social care was not being addressed.
The message was sent jointly by Sarah Wollaston of the Health Committee, Meg Hillier of the Public Accounts Committee, and Clive Betts of the Communities and Local Government Committee. They urged Theresa May to find a ‘political consensus’ on funding social care in a sustainable way by 2020, adding that a cross-party review would be the best method of finding a solution.
Estimates from the Local Government Association suggest there will be a £2.6 billion funding gap in providing adult social care in England by 2020, while in December 2016 the government announced it would allow a rise in council tax of up to 6% over two years rather than three.
The letter to Ms May, however, says that a long-term solution will only be found with cross-party consensus.
‘Given the scale of rising demand,’ they wrote, ‘this immense challenge will face whichever party is in government over the coming decades.
‘We are calling for a new political consensus to take this forward. This needs to be done swiftly so that agreement can be reflected in the next spending round.’
The MPs suggest that any review should cover both the health and social care systems, saying that if the two are separated it creates ‘difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies’.
The letter concludes: ‘In short, the problem is widely recognized – we now need political agreement so that a solution for the long term can be found. For our part we shall do what we can to contribute to a consensus. We look forward to hearing from you.’
Chief Executive of health thinktank The King’s Fund, Chris Ham, called the new plan ‘long overdue’ while criticizing the lack of political leadership on the issue of health and social care.
A government spokeswoman said that it had ‘gone further to integrate health and social care than any government before it’. She added that the prime minister had made it clear that the issue was not just about money and local authorities needed to learn from each other in order to raise standards.