Opportunity arises for new social care settlement, says former health secretary

Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt

Coronavirus has helped drive integration between health and care systems and offers an opportunity for a new settlement for social care, former health secretary Patricia Hewitt has said.

Speaking during a health and social care webinar on Thursday (14 May), Hewitt, who is now chair of Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership, told the audience barriers that had been in place for years had ‘melted away’.

She said health and care systems were working as teams due a to national policy that had been switched from not to worry about money to one about supporting patients and providing packages of care.

However, the former Labour MP pointed out true integration would be complicated at many levels and require single pay scales, shared training, skills passports and careers paths across both sectors.

Pointing to the ‘horrific’ levels of turnover in social care, she said that would be a big area to work on.

Hewitt, who was health secretary between May 2005 and June 2007, said: ‘I think we now have, as a country, an opportunity for a new settlement for social care. The NHS has benefited hugely from the five-year forward view but particularly last year’s long-term plan and a five-year funding settlement. We need the equivalent for social care.

‘What we need is political leadership that will build broad public support… and cross-party support as well because we need a settlement that can last and not become a political football…’

However, Daniel Casson, digital development executive at Care England, said during the pandemic too many care settings were being ‘left out on a limb’ and that while ‘chequebooks have been opened’, the way money was getting through to providers had to be ‘radically looked at’.

The full webinar can be found here.