Influential thinktank the King’s Fund has called for a single national settlement for health and social care to better reflect the interrelationship between the two.
In a report the thinktank argued that, with growing demographic pressures and council social care services facing a funding gap in excess of £1bn by 2015, organisational boundaries should be de-prioritised ahead of service users’ needs.
It said that despite calls to pool spending, only 5% of combined NHS and social care budgets were subject to joint arrangements.
The report said ways to align the entire £121bn NHS and social care support budget through strategic funding assessments, locally pooled or place-based budgets should be explored.
It added that a “radical option” would be to merge local adult social care budgets with GP consortia commissioning budgets for defined patient groups.
Richard Humphries, King’s Fund social care fellow, left, said social care should no longer be viewed as “just a supportive handmaiden to the NHS”.
“Attempts so far to make this reciprocal relationship work in practice have not gone far enough and vary from place to place,” he said.
David Rogers (Lib Dem), chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said that aligning health and social care spending would be difficult as long as there was universal entitlement for one and locally varying degrees of eligibility for the other.
“Hopefully, health and wellbeing boards will offer an improved interface between health and social care spending,” he said.