Health and care need equal investment | first comment

70 years on, it’s clear that the health of the nation cannot and will not be improved by the NHS alone. Social and preventative services also play a crucial role in caring for the population.


Councillor Huw David is the Welsh LGA’s Spokesperson for Health and Social Care Leader

This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service. Rightly regarded as a ground-breaking social experiment, the vision of its pioneering Welsh architect, Nye Bevan, continues to be a source of pride for British people.

However, 70 years on, it’s clear that the health of the nation cannot and will not be improved by the NHS alone. Social and preventative services also play a crucial role in caring for the population.

A recent report by the charity The Health Foundation recognises that key determinants of health are largely outside the control of health services, and so the quality of, and spending on, social care has one of the strongest impacts on the demand for health care.

But social care in Wales is facing huge challenges, all of which put increasing pressure on our valuable services that protect some of our most vulnerable people, the workers who care for them, and ultimately risks the very survival of the NHS. 

It’s been estimated that pressures on adult social care in Wales alone will rise by around 4.1 per cent a year in real terms between 2015 and 2030/31, due to demography, chronic conditions and rising costs. This will require the budget to almost double to £2.3 billion in Wales by 2030/31 to match demand. Welsh social services will next year face additional pressures of £99 million, relating either to direct workforce costs or indirect third party providers, leaping to £344 million by 2021/22.

The Welsh Government has offered a welcome degree of protection for health and social care budgets from some of the horrific cuts wielded in England. Its willingness to engage in dialogue with councils and provide additional funding to cope with winter pressures has led in Wales to only a fraction of the bed blocking seen in England due to the decimation of services in the community.

But while we are grateful to the Welsh Government for its recent £10 million funding to support winter pressures, it’s clear that one-off boosts are not enough to cover increasing financial pressures – let alone significantly increased demand and cost pressures in future.

Bold and radical long-term solutions are urgently needed. The Parliamentary Review into Health and Social Care in Wales has called for a shift away from treatment and crisis management to an integrated system based on prevention and early intervention. For this to truly happen, we all need to rethink how we approach health and social care.

I look forward to joining influential speakers at our forthcoming Welsh LGA annual conference in Llandudno in a few weeks’ time to discuss the future relationship between the NHS and social care. And despite gloomy predictions for health and social care, I am firmly of the view that we have much to look forward to – as long as councils and the NHS both receive equal investment in future years and are committed to work together.

By working together to integrate health and social care with adequate resources, we’ll be better prepared to face future challenges and we can ensure that such services are protected.

If we don’t owe it to Nye Bevan to secure an integrated healthcare system that is fit for purpose, we certainly do owe it to our children and future generations.

Let’s start a conversation, let’s have a debate, and let’s make a change.

  • The Welsh LGA’s annual conference and dinner takes place on 23 June at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. For more information and to book a place, please visit www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/WLGA2018