Two weeks ago we highlighted recommendations from The King’s Fund for merging health care and social care budgets. Now this concept has been picked up in mainstream political debate at the Labour party’s annual conference, with the shadow Secretary of State for Health unveiling it as a central plank in their platform for the 2015 General Election.
This takes Labour much further down this road than the timid and slowly evolving proposals for some joined up budgets in the field previously announced by the coalition government.
It’s always much easier for politicans out of office to propose sweeping gestures than for those in government to implement complex changes.
Labour’s ideas come with promises of new resources, but the bulk of these are once again to be found from that illusory bottomless pit, efficiency savings. There are promises of a vast army of new health staff, but no clear vision of where and how quickly they can be found. There are also concerns that decisions could be dangerously centralized within an even more anonymous vast bureaucracy
So there is room for continuing cynicism here. But let’s at least take heart from the fact that this moves the issue of proper funding for social care to centre stage in the political debate. It needs to be there.
At the heart of the issue there is a fundamental question: who pays for dementia care? We have an NHS which proclaims that service remains free at the point of delivery. As of now, that may be true for most serious illnesses, but dementia is a glaring anomaly. Are we finally on track to tackle it?