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Hot Take: Integration provides the solution to health and social care woes

Hot Take: Integration provides the solution to health and social care woes

Caring Times editor-in-chief Lee Peart says integration provides the answer to the woes facing health and social care.

The current Covid Public Inquiry has once again starkly highlighted how social care is treated as the Cinderella service and poor relative of the NHS. 

While ‘brand NHS’ remains sacrosanct despite its many problems, social care continues to struggle for the attention and recognition it deserves. 

The stats show this imbalance is entirely unwarranted with social care employing more people than the NHS (1.6 million against 1.4 million) while contributing around £50 billion to the UK economy. 

Despite this, the annual social care budget is dwarfed by that of the NHS, with social care accounting for £26.9 billion of the £190 billion health and care budget in 2021/22. 

Faced with this lack of funding social care providers continue to struggle to attract workers. Skills for Care data shows that the average hourly pay rate of care workers (at £9.50) is £1 per hour less than a new health care assistant (HCA) in the NHS and almost £2 per hour less than an HCA with more than two years’ experience. 

Integration in the form of a National Health and Care service would fundamentally address this gross inequality in resource allocation by ensuring funding and resources are shared from the same pool. 

The interconnectedness of health and social care means it makes no sense to treat them as individual services as each service directly impacts upon and relies upon the other. 

Bringing both services together as a single body would create a level playing field for social care and help ensure that funding could be equitably shared between both systems. 

It would help shift our healthcare model to one of prevention rather than cure potentially saving billions of pounds in hospital bills as more people are cared for at home in community settings and disease and frailty are addressed at source. 

Integration would also create a single unified service able to provide joined up, lifetime support for people on their care journey from the cradle to the grave. 

It would also create equality of recognition through the development of a joint workforce pool that is paid and trained on the same terms with transferrable skills and shared career pathways. 

It’s time to stop looking at two separate systems and bring health and social care together. 


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