UK Government health and social care plan 2021
The British Healthcare Trades Association has stated that while Government plans to invest £36 billion into the health and care system over the next three years is a “step in the right direction” questions remain over the net effects on provision for vital equipment and services.

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that it will spend £12 billion per year on health and social care which will be funded by a 1.25 per cent rise in National Insurance contributions (NIC).

The rise in tax comes amid growing price pressures on providers of essential healthcare and assistive technologies equipment and services, fuelled by continuing COVID-19 disruption and multiple supply chain challenges.

Action to improve the health and social care of the nation is welcome, but the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) stresses a need for clarity on how funding will help consumers and providers of vital equipment and services.

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Andrew Stevenson BHTA
Andrew Stevenson, BHTA Chairman

Andrew Stevenson, Chairman of the British Healthcare Trades Association commented: “Any new funding is a welcome step in the right direction to address patient backlogs in the NHS, and to start to improve the position for social care.

“It remains to be seen, however, just how much of the income generated by the Government’s plan will be spent on social care, and what will be the net effects on provision of social care products and services – for both consumers and providers.

“If all goes according to plan, 20 per cent of the new funding (£1.8bn/year) is earmarked for social care.

“While positive, this is far below the estimated £9.3 billion a year required to maintain current levels of social care provision according to The Health Foundation, let alone provide for much-needed improvements.

“And there is reasonable anxiety that ever-growing NHS budgets could further reduce even the planned 20 per cent spend on social care.

“Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that only twice in the last 40 years has NHS spend fallen at or below planned targets – in every other year, NHS spend increased.

“Indeed, in the words of the Resolution Foundation, “while billed as a social care announcement, in reality social care played a minor role in a major tax-rise-funded increase in wider health funding, covering the NHS but also meeting ongoing pandemic costs.”

“BHTA and its members welcome any increase in money and resource for the NHS, particularly if it helps the NHS adopt innovative products and services, build resilient supply chains, and drive sustainability and net-zero goals.  But – in the words of Conservative MP Anne-Marie Morris – “help for social care is needed now, not in three or four years’ time,” and the plan offers little clarity on how:

  • Even with the £86k spending cap, consumers of social care products and services with modest homes and few financial assets can avoid the need to put a charge on their homes if they need significant in-home or residential care (especially since the cap excludes food and accommodation);
  • Providers of social care products and services – already facing severe staff shortages; payroll pressures set to worsen as the furlough scheme ends in September 2021; and skyrocketing 2021 shipping prices through spring, summer and into autumn – might cope with increased payroll costs associated with employers’ NIC rises (from which the NHS, the UK’s largest employer, is exempt);

    Ian Jones, Managing Director of Care & Independence and BHTA director

“Although the relative focus on the NHS over social care means that the focus of what has been announced is on changing who pays for care, BHTA and its members remain committed to everyone having access to the best care so they can live healthier and more independent lives.”

These thoughts were echoed by Angela Matthews, Head of Policy at Business Disability Forum, who had also commented that it was “disappointing” that the Prime Minister opened the plan with an ‘ode’ to the NHS which was accompanied by a noticeable silence on a matched love for the UK’s social care system.

Meanwhile, Ian Jones, Managing Director of Care & Independence and a BHTA director, questioned whether the health and care funding plan has gone far enough.

He added: “A tax increase of some description was inevitable given the events of the last 18 months.

“Creating a new health and social care tax, ring-fenced to pay for reforms across the care sector and the NHS, is a positive move and one that many in the UK will probably support, despite it going against Boris’s manifesto pledge.

“The only questions remaining are whether it has gone far enough; whether the tax burden has been fairly distributed across the UK workforce; and whether enough of the funding will actually get to support front line services and not get tied up in complicated, top-heavy reorganisations and structures.

“Only time will tell and, as always, devil will be in the detail. We as a company always welcome additional funding for our amazing national health and social care teams, and which helps them continue to support and provide the exceptional care for all those who need their services.”

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