Plans to fully resource and reform the social care system must be in place within a year, the chief executive of the NHS has said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Sir Simon Stevens said that “if any good” could come out of the COVID-19 crisis, “this must be the moment” to properly resource and reform the way in which social care works in this country “once and for all”.
He said there was a need to “decisively answer” how high quality care could be funded and provided long-term.
Speaking yesterday, on the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, Sir Simon told the BBC: “The reality is that after at least two decades of talking about it, we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports.
“If you’ve got a situation where a quarter of your social care staff are on zero hours contracts, where you’ve got one third churn in employment each year, that is not the preconditions for being able to provide high quality care.”
Sir Simon said the Covid-19 crisis had shone a “very harsh spotlight” on the “resilience” of the care system.
He added: “I would hope by the time we are sitting down this time next year on the 73rd birthday of the NHS that we have actually, as a country, been able to decisively answer the question of how are we going to fund and provide high-quality social care for my parents’ generation.
“If you take back the history coming out of the Second World War, the country at that point was on austerity. We had rationing for bread and potatoes.
“The founders of the NHS did not use that as a moment to hesitate, they said, ‘let one of the legacies of the war be the creation of the NHS’.
“That’s the same legacy we need for long-term care support in social care coming out of coronavirus.”
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson said the government is finalising plans to fix the problems in social care and that the Conservatives “won’t wait” to fix the problem of social care that “every government has flunked for 30 years”.
But in June, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that social care reform could be further delayed due to the pandemic.
Commenting on Sir Simon’s remarks, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The social care workforce are playing an essential role in the fight against Covid-19 caring for our loved ones during a challenging time and we have set out a comprehensive action plan to support the sector in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
“We know there’s a need for a long-term solution for social care and there are complex questions to address. We will bring forward a plan that puts social care on a sustainable footing to ensure the reforms will last long into the future.”