Charities urge Cameron to boost NHS and social care

Elderly woman being fed by a carer Image copyright Science Photo Library

Prime Minister David Cameron must take "bold" action over growing pressures on health and social care, charities say.

Almost 40 organisations, including Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie, want an independent commission to review how the system works.

They have written a letter to the PM, warning that there is "no room for complacency" and calling for an NHS that is "fit for purpose".

The Department of Health said it would be investing £10bn into the NHS.

The charities also highlight official figures which suggest that nearly a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65 in just over 20 years' time.

The letter to Mr Cameron says: "We need to ensure we have an NHS and social care system that is fit for purpose otherwise it is the elderly, disabled people and their carers who will bear the brunt of inaction.

"Bold long-term thinking is required about the size, shape and scope of services we want the NHS and social care to provide - and an honest debate about how much as a society we are prepared to pay for them.

"It is vital that you meet the challenge posed by an ageing society, and an underfunded care system, head on and establish a cross-party commission to review the future of health and social care in England."

Ageing population

Former health minister Norman Lamb has highlighted the view of experts that there could be a £30bn gap in NHS funding by 2020.

The Liberal Democrat MP has put forward proposals for an independent commission to review the future of the NHS and social care, which have been backed by former health secretaries Stephen Dorrell and Alan Milburn.

Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell told the BBC: "You cannot just look at one bit of the system, different departments such as A&E, and not recognise that these are all linked together."

He said the fact people are living longer means "we should recognise that the public services that they rely on need to be more flexible and reliable and, critically importantly, more focused on preventing unnecessary illnesses, rather than just waiting for a crisis to arrive and then put pressure on stressed A&E departments".

A review would look at "immediate issues" and the "broader context" for the provision of healthcare, he added.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell says a cross-party review is needed for the future of the service

Simon Bottery, policy director at Independent Age, a charity for older people, said such a commission would be a "vital first move towards recognising that the health and care systems cannot work in isolation - only when they work effectively together can the needs of older people be met".

David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Centre think tank, which examines issues around ageing and population, said the number of people aged 85 and older is expected to more than double to more than three million in the next 20 years.

"We need to start talking now, honestly and openly, about what standards of health and care older people can expect now and in the future," he added.

A Department of Health spokesman said it was aware that the NHS is "facing challenges as our population ages", but said the government was "absolutely committed" to its future, with plans to invest £10bn in it for the next five years.

"Since 2010, we have employed 10,100 extra doctors and 8,500 extra nurses and by 2020 the NHS will be a truly seven-day service offering the same world-class care every day of the week."

More on this story