‘Nicholson challenge’ needed for social care, Burstow says

 The ‘Nicholson challenge’ of NHS cost savings must be repeated, but widened to cover social care, according to former Care Services Minister Paul Burstow.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference, Burstow argued that cost-cutting had to be applied to health and social care in an integrated way.

His comments followed recent suggestions that £2bn may be shifted from the NHS budget to cover gaps in basic social care funding.

The current ‘Nicholson challenge’ of saving £20bn from NHS spending over four years would need to be repeated due to the ongoing recession, Burstow said – but this time, healthcare should not be considered in isolation.

Describing the current savings programme as “thoughtful and sensible”, the former Minister argued it was “the right time” for discussion about the next spending review.

NHS Confederation Deputy Chief Executive David Stout commented that the NHS was already facing “really serious problems” due to the current austerity measures, so transferring money to social care was impossible.

However, he said, it was necessary to implement the Dilnot proposals for social care funding – otherwise the negative consequences would rebound on the NHS.