Andy Burnham has said that a lack of investment in social care has added to overwhelming pressure on emergency services, leaving the NHS “on the brink”.
The shadow health secretary has warned that the collapse in social care is “threatening to drag down the NHS”.
Mr Burnham told an event on health and social care integration organised by the Fabian Society and Age UK in London that political neglect of social care and a lack of investment in the sector has led to huge pressure on hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
Mr Burnham said: “There isn’t a recognisable social care service of the kind that we need. Statistics about A&E are intrinsically bound up with [the] collapse in social care.
“That’s now having a financial and operational impact on the NHS because hospitals are becoming increasingly dysfunctional … we’re at a point now when we’re on the brink.”
Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has said that the gap between health service resources and needs could be £30bn by 2020. £2bn was allocated to the NHS in George Osborne’s autumn statement.
The shadow health secretary is keen to integrate health and social care with the aim of supporting people at home in the community, thereby relieving pressure on GPs, A&E departments and hospitals. He said that money had to be supplied in a meaningful way to make sure the financial incentive in the system supports people at home.
“The only way to build a truly person centred health and social care system in the 21st century is to apply the NHS principle to all care,” he added.
A Department of Health spokesperson responded to the comments by saying: “The Care Act and our £5.3bn Better Care Fund, the first ever programme to join up health and social care, will focus on helping people to live independently for as long as possible, helping prevent people from needing more support and reducing pressure on A&E.”