Jeremy Hunt MP is the Secretary of State for Health, and is MP for South West Surrey.
With an extra £2 billion for social care, £100 million for improving A&E departments and £325 million to back local NHS transformation plans, this week’s Budget reaffirmed our commitment to all those families who rely on our health and care services, particularly the elderly.
Our social care system already supports over a million people. Compared with six years ago, we have 340,000 more over-80s, many of whom are highly vulnerable or have dementia. By 2020, we will have a million more over 75s, making these services increasingly vital for families across the country.
This week’s announcement was important recognition and support from a government determined to protect the elderly and the vulnerable. I have said before that I want Britain to be the best country in the world to grow old in, and this is obviously a challenging objective given many financial and operational pressures. But in the last spending round, we found an extra £8 billion a year for the NHS, and after this Budget an extra £2 billion will be going into councils’ social care budgets, including a £1 billion increase from this April. Frail elderly residents, as well as younger citizens with physical or learning disabilities, should be reassured that they will get the support they need.
Meanwhile, because money is not the only issue even in the short term, we will take new action to identify and support those parts of the country where unduly large numbers of patients suffer from failures such as delayed transfers out of hospital because council and NHS services are not working together properly. And we will address the issue of the longer term sustainability of the social care system in a Green Paper later this year.
This new funding will also relieve pressure on the health service. Despite many pressures, our NHS staff continue to deliver amazing improvements for patients – on cancer we have record survival rates, and are starting treatment for 130 more people every single day; we have the biggest expansion of mental health in Europe and some of the highest dementia diagnosis rates in the world; and, despite performing 5,000 more operations every day, MRSA rates have halved and are amongst the lowest in Europe – well below France, Germany and Spain. According the IPSOS Mori the proportion of patients who say their NHS care is good has risen by 13 percent in the last four years.
Nonetheless, on the Tuesday after Christmas last year, the NHS had its busiest ever day – and there are real pressures in our A & Es which have led to some unacceptable breaches in care. The Budget addresses the causes of what happened in two ways: firstly, by funding the social care system, so that it can help hospitals discharge more people quickly. And, secondly, by providing capital funding to help divert more minor cases away from busy A & Es, as well as for the local transformation plans now underway throughout the country.
As Conservatives, we recognise that care of the elderly cannot be left solely to the state. But what the state does, it should do to the highest standards, which is why I have always said my ambition for the NHS and social care system is very simple: I want it to offer the safest, highest quality care anywhere in the world. With a strong economy taking advantage of all the opportunities of Brexit and a Prime Minister committed to building a country that works for everyone, that is exactly what we will deliver.