Cuts to council social care budgets risk placing the National Health Service under even greater pressure, experts have warned.
The NHS Confederation, which represents 95% of the organisations within the health service, said funding protection for frontline services would not shield the service from the knock-on effects of local authority cutbacks.
Earlier this summer, LGC reported that up to £400m was set to be diverted from NHS budgets to be spent on social care in recognition of the knock-on effects that local authority cuts would have on health services.
The NHS Confederation’s acting president Nigel Edwards, right, said it “seemed inevitable” that councils would further tighten eligibility criteria for social care services as a way to deal with predicted cuts of 25% and that the situation would subject NHS services to further strain at a time when management costs were being reduced by 45%.
“Before long we could see a majority of councils only supplying services to those with the most critical of needs,” he said.
“At a superficial level, this may ease pressure on the social care budget, but the needs of these vulnerable people and their families will not simply disappear - if needs are not met by social care, people will turn to the NHS.
“Some will present as emergencies in A&E departments and GP surgeries, others will find themselves trapped in hospital unable to get home, blocking the bed from someone else who badly needs it.
“Everybody loses: the users of services, those who care for them, the taxpayer and the NHS. It’s a classic false economy.”
Mr Edwards said that there was a strong case for an “interim solution” while the government worked on its proposals for the long-term funding of social care
“Local and central government need to urgently work together to consider how we can all mitigate the impact of this spending squeeze on some of the most vulnerable people in society,” he said.
Under the Fair Access to Care Services guidelines, service users are generally categorised as having one of four levels of need: “low”, “moderate”, “substantial” and “critical”. The majority of councils now only offer services to people assessed as having “substantial” or “critical” needs.