We back committee call to address health and care funding challenge

Together for Short Lives has called on the government to address the ‘colossal’ funding challenges facing health and social care in England, as outlined in a new report.

The House of Commons Health Committee, which scrutinises the work of the Department of Health, found that despite committing £8.4billion to the NHS by 2020-21, the government will only actually increase health spending by £4.5bn during this period.

The report follows an inquiry by the committee into the impact of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on health and social care.

With state funding for children’s palliative care patchy and inconsistent, Together for Short Lives’ own research shows that children with life-shortening conditions across England already face a postcode lottery of support. We have also uncovered worrying gaps in the children’s palliative workforce with too few people with the skills, knowledge and experience need to care for seriously ill children.

Our submission to the inquiry called on the government to set out how children’s palliative care will be funded equitably and sustainably. It also stressed that cuts to local authority budgets could have an adverse effect on support for children with life-shortening conditions by reducing the money available for social care, including short breaks.

The committee found that:

  • Part of the increased funding for NHS England is being funded by cuts to other areas of health spending, including training and public health programmes such as obesity prevention. The committee believes that ‘cutting public health is a false economy’ as it increases costs for other parts of the NHS.
  • Measures proposed to reduce NHS providers’ deficits, such as pay restraint and reduced capital spending, are not sustainable.
  • Health and social care integration shows great promise, but is not a quick-fix for the financial challenges facing health and social care.
  • There are no further ‘significant’ savings to be made in social care and increasing numbers of people ‘are no longer receiving the care they need because of a lack of resource’.
  • A larger workforce is needed to meet future health and social care needs.

Commenting on the committee’s report, Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive at Together for Short Lives said:

“The committee’s findings are deeply troubling and paint a bleak picture of health and social care funding in the years to come. If the government fails to address the challenges identified by MPs, it will be the most vulnerable in society, such as children and young people with life-shortening conditions, who are hardest hit. That is simply unacceptable.

“Together for Short Lives calls on the government to fund health and social care services equitably and sustainably so that children and young people with life-shortening conditions can access the care they need when and where they need it. This includes making sure that commissioners and providers have enough money to realise the government’s recent end of life care commitment. We also ask that the government works closely with Health Education England, the Council of Deans and universities to make sure that there are enough people who are trained, educated and available to provide the lifeline palliative care which children and young people with the most complex needs rely on.

“Further, this isn’t just about the amount of money that the government invests in the NHS. It is about smarter spending. We make an open offer to help health and social care commissioners plan and fund effective, joined-up palliative care for children and young people. By doing so, they can improve outcomes for these vulnerable families and reduce the risk of them needing emergency and unplanned hospital visits, which is the real drain on NHS funds.

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