Free social care for over-65s 'would save NHS £4.5bn every year', new report claims

23 May 2019, 00:56 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 04:28

Giving free social care to the over-65s could save the NHS £4.5bn every year, a leading think tank has said.

In a new report, the Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) claims it would make for a more efficient health service by allowing more elderly people to get help in the community instead of needing to be in hospital.

As it stands, many people who have dementia have to pay for their own care, whereas cancer patients get free treatment through the NHS.

By replicating that benefit, IPPR believes the number of people with access to state-funded care would increase from 185,000 to 440,000.

Although the report predicts spending on adult social care for the over-65s will rise from £17bn a year to £36bn in 2030, it says £11bn of that increase would arise without the changes and the amount would be offset by benefits - including an extra 70,000 full-time jobs.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow and lead report author at IPPR, said: "If you develop cancer in England, you are cared for by the NHS, free at the point of need for as long as it takes.

"But if you develop dementia you're likely to have to pay for all your own social care - running up potentially catastrophic costs in the last years of your life. This makes no sense.

"By investing in personal social care so it is free at the point of need for everyone over-65, we can provide a better and more integrated care system, one that's fairer to us all and saves the NHS £4.5bn a year."

The report says an income tax rise of 2% would be enough to fund the change, which could also reduce pressure on family members of those who require constant care.

Mah Rana travels up to five hours a day across London to care for her 87-year-old mother. She has been doing it for four years and is classed as an unpaid carer.

She told Sky News: "It's all absorbing, it's kinda 24/7. It does affect your sleep it raises your anxiety levels. Often you're anxious about them, particularly if you're away from them.

"It feels like its not fair. You're not the only one that's experiencing it, but the system is not working."

Her mother also relies on a day care centre, but the cost of that leaves her with no disposable income.

The IPPR wants a "joined-up" system of health and social care provision to help with such expenses, under which GPs, nurses, mental health workers and social care workers would work locally in integrated teams.

Sir David Behan, chairman of Health Education England and former chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, called on politicians to back the sweeping changes suggested in the report.

He said: "In 1948, politicians were brave in making the NHS free at the point of need and funded out of general taxation.

"We need our politicians today to be just as courageous and do the same for social care."