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Failure to ringfence social care budget could prove costly

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Researchers have laid bare how cuts to adult social care could lead to significant extra demand for hospital acute services.

The study by the Nuffield Trust examined the care patters of more than 16,000 people from three primary care trust areas in their last year of life to explore the relationship between health and social care spending.

The researchers found that on average 30% of the group used some form of local authority-funded social care service in the 12 months before their death.

The PCT area with the lowest spend on social care (£1,138 per patient) had a significantly higher spend on hospital care (£6,220) than the area where the most was spent on social care (£3,689 per patient). In that area, just £3,349 was spent on hospital care per patient – more than 40% less than the area spending the least on social care.

Report co-author Dr Jennifer Dixon, Director, Nuffield Trust, said: “The findings indicate the vital role that social care can play in supporting people at home in the last months of life.

“However, unlike health care funding, social care budgets have not been ring-fenced so any reduction in social care support offered by local authorities risks reducing needed support for the terminally ill, as well as having real financial implications for the NHS.”

The study found that the amount spent on inpatient care decreased in patients aged 60 and above while the amount spent on social care increased.

For patients aged 90 and older estimated costs of social care in the final year of life exceeded inpatient care which researchers say could be due to increased use of residential and nursing care. 

The Nuffield Trust claims the study was the first time an analysis of estimated costs of hospital and social care services had been conducted on such a large scale.

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