Grant Thornton public sector experts respond to today's government announcement outlining plans to reform health and social care funding.

Nick Clarke, Head of Social Care Consulting, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:

“Our NHS and social care systems have been stretched drastically throughout the pandemic, with increased pressure on one service often also resulting in further strain on the other.

“The increase in National Insurance announced today, or the new ‘health and social care levy’, should make a marked difference in the level of funding available to the social care sector, enabling better access to equipment, better quality of care and improved service delivery. While there may be questions around the funding route chosen, the pandemic response has so far been funded primarily through increased borrowing, and it was probably inevitable that, at some point, a tax increase of some nature was going to need to be called upon.

“The strains on the social care sector and the alarming costs many have historically had to pay, has also been addressed with the introduction of a lifetime care cap, set at £86,000 – a change which should go some way to easing the financial burden and distress many have faced when paying for care in recent years, often depleting their personal assets to fund the necessary support. Though £86,000 is still significantly more than the cap range proposed in the Dilnot report.

“But for Local Authority leaders and those involved in the social care sector, there are three big questions that remain unanswered: how much will they get, when will they get it and how much certainty will they have that their “share” of the new levy will not be eroded by current and future pressures in the NHS in years to come. For the sector to transform and meet the ever increasing challenges of growing demand, more complex needs, inflationary busting unit price increases and staff shortages (especially in home care), answers to these three questions are critical. The changes will also result in more social care being delivered and paid for by local authorities so the sector is likely to want confirmation on whether the additional funding will cover the additional liability.”

Matt Custance, Partner, Healthcare, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:

“The changes made to the social care system today bring the country’s approach to supporting people’s social care needs closer to the universal health care we receive through the NHS. But they remain markedly different; health care is free for all at the point of use while social care is not. But the government’s announcement today goes some way to reducing this disparity. And the additional access to social care should make life a bit easier for the NHS at the same time, with more people able to access social care than before.

“The confirmation yesterday of a further £5.4 billion over the next six months to support the NHS through the pandemic is also welcomed. While any further funding is of course helpful, given the scale of the challenge, there remains a question as to whether it will be enough. While the NHS can find efficiencies, there needs to continue to be careful review by government to see if this funding proves to be enough to see the service through.”