Health

Autumn Statement: Row as care funding omitted from measures

Woman with walking stick

Health and social care leaders have condemned the chancellor's Autumn Statement as a missed opportunity to announce new investment.

There had been calls for more funding for council-run social care in England, amid concerns that limits to care were leaving patients stuck in hospitals.

But predictions of "looming chaos" were rejected by the chancellor.

Philip Hammond said a previously-announced NHS funding commitment was in line with what its leaders had wanted.

Cuts in social care funding in England have been blamed for a sharp increase in the number of patients stuck in hospital beds because care cannot be arranged elsewhere.

One suggestion for the Autumn Statement was for local authorities to be allowed to raise more from council tax.

The chancellor did not offer new resources either for the NHS or social care when outlining the Treasury's plans, only confirming that ministers would be sticking with departmental spending announced last year.

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Speaking in the debate following his statement, Mr Hammond referred to an extra £10bn in money for the NHS by 2020-21.

However, that figure that has been questioned by MPs on the Commons health committee and the King's Fund think tank among others.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said there would be increasing delays in the NHS and growing gaps in the care market this winter, adding that the government "has plainly ignored a wide range of respected voices".

The Royal College of Physicians president, Prof Jane Dacre, said amid "growing waiting lists, underfunding of social care, and growing numbers of emergency departments closing their doors the decision not to even mention or increase funding is alarming".

The Local Government Association said it was unacceptable that the "crisis" in social care funding had not been addressed, and the NHS Confederation, which represents health service providers, said the government had "missed a golden opportunity to ease the strain on the NHS".

Former pensions minister Ros Altmann also said the "chancellor has missed an opportunity to really signal that the government cares about the social care crisis".

In his response to the Autumn Statement, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said local authorities were at a "tipping point" with social care services, adding "You can't cut social care without also hitting the NHS".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will visit a hospital in the Midlands later to highlight the party's argument that the government is not helping the NHS during an intense financial squeeze.

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