The promised green paper on the long-term sustainability of social care will ”remain in the long grass” due to the fragility of the minority government, the Conservative chair of the Commons health committee has said.
Appearing this morning at an event organised by the Kings Fund, Sarah Wollaston dismissed the prospect of significant reform on social care as any radical approach would not gain the cross-party backing required.
She said the Labour Party would oppose any government proposals as it was on a “permanent election footing”, while the Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party had opposed the controversial Tory’s manifesto pledge to protect up to £100,000 of a person’s assets from social care costs, a policy dubbed the “dementia tax” by much of the media.
Dr Wollaston added that the proposal was “like falling off a cliff edge” during the election campaign with support on the doorstep for Theresa May as prime minister falling drastically following its announcement.
She said: “The green paper is a missed opportunity. Because it was handled extremely clumsily it will remain in the long grass until there is some kind of crisis and then it will be back on the agenda.
“Everything feels very fragile and there is no way we can get the really major reforms required through.”
Dr Wollaston added that select committees must now take “a muscular role” in pushing the issue.
She added: “There must be pressure from Parliament itself, the public and the media to say where is [the green paper]?
Dr Wollaston later said that she believes NHS Trusts will increasingly invest in social care capacity due to a lack of council funding and government pressure to reduce pressure on hospitals.
She added that this would cause complications as NHS care is free at the point of use, while social care is not and eligibility criteria is applied.
Earlier this month LGC reported on warnings from councils that the emerging practice of NHS trusts employing their own domiciliary care staff risks disrupting fragile local workforce markets and increasing pressure on wider social care systems.