So we have a “snap election”. Some election bribes have been offered out (students clearly being part of Labour’s target market) and of course politicians on all sides are offering to throw money at the NHS.
Briefly there appeared to be some space opening up in policy terms around social care, before the Conservative party rushed into a U turn after some newspapers used the dreaded “dementia tax” label.
Amidst all this debate (some even focussing on policy rather than personality), it would be great to see courage and leadership shown about the problems in the NHS and Social Care. I fear this will not happen.
Before the election announcement, the government announced a green paper on the future of social care. Yet another no doubt lengthy report that will follow the usual routine. Concerns will be raised about funding, government will feel discomfort about how to deal with the issues so end up playing for time – preferably so the next government will have to deal with it.
The spectre of funding for social care has been stalking the corridors of different governments for over 10 years now and despite various Royal Commissions, Green Papers, White Papers and some actual laws nothing has really changed. The last attempt emanating from the Dilnot Commission produced the Care Act which included the infamous care cap. When the Department of Health finally realised the impact that it would have on the social care market as well as public funding, it was booted into the long grass until 2020 (conveniently after the next election was then due).
And that has been the way of the last 10 or more years. Put it off. Preferably until someone else will have to deal with it.
But neither the NHS nor social care industry can wait. More importantly, nor can older people trapped in hospital beds, in underfunded care homes or receiving inadequate care at home. Crisis is perhaps a rather overused term, but the social care crisis is now real.
Middleton Hall is fortunate in having customers who recognise that they want quality and are prepared to pay for it. But that is only part of the market. Those who do not have that choice are being ill served by our political masters.
History suggests that no government is really prepared to deal with the problem. And with a five year (or less when that is more convenient) election cycle, it is always too easy to find a way of putting it off. So let’s not have more reports or commissions. Let’s have some courage.
Courage for a cross party agreement, not an election gimmick. Courage to face up to the uncomfortable truth.
The truth that we can no longer afford to maintain either the NHS or social care without either accepting that many of us will have to pay more tax or many of us will have to pay for our care.
So party leaders – how about some real leadership? Never mind the election gimmicks and whether someone has the right charisma or dress sense to be Prime Minister but how about someone prepared to speak the truth. We cannot have a low tax economy and high quality public services – especially with something as important as social and health care.
No more vague promises or putting it off. Just be honest with we electors.