Charities urge PM to take "bold" action on health and social care

"Bold long-term thinking" is needed on the size, shape and scope of health and social care services, a group of charities have argued.

In a letter to David Cameron, 40 organisations including Care England, the Alzheimer's Society and Independent Age tell the Prime Minister that the challenge of an ageing society and unfunded care system must be met "head-on" with a cross-party commission to review the future of health and social services.

It adds that there needs to be an "honest debate about how much as a society we are prepared to pay for them".

The call comes after former care minister Norman Lamb tabled a 10-minute bill in parliament proposing a commission to deliver "a new Beveridge Report".

The letter warns the Prime Minister that Britain is facing "monumental demographic challenges" as nearly a quarter of the population will be over 65 in 20 years' time.

"There is no room for complacency. We need to ensure we have an NHS and social care system that is fit for purpose otherwise it is the elderly, disabled people and their carers who will bear the brunt of inaction. 

"It is vital that you meet the challenge posed by an ageing society, and an underfunded care system, head-on and establish a cross-party commission to review the future of health and social care in England. We are keen to work with you to make this commission a reality."

Simon Bottery, director of policy and external relations at Independent Age, said: "Without a robust health and care service that delivers for older people when they need it, the UK will never be truly prepared for ageing. A commission on the future of health and social care is the vital first move towards recognising that the health and care systems cannot work in isolation - only when they work effectively together can the needs of older people be met. This is a conversation we cannot avoid if we are truly committed to ensuring older people have the quality of life they deserve. We urge the Prime Minister to back this commission."

David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Centre, added: "The UK is facing dramatic demographic change - in the next 20 years the number of people aged 85 and older will more than double to over three million. It is crucial that we are prepared for that change. We need to start talking now, honestly and openly, about what standards of health and care older people can expect now and in the future. Establishing this commission would be an excellent step towards this and we hope the PM will listen to the calls being made today."

Des Kelly OBE, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: "Despite several attempts to agree the structure to properly integrated care and health and a long-term plan for future funding, this fundamental issue remains in the 'too difficult to do' pile. As a consequence, services in both the care and health sectors are under severe strain and quality is beginning to suffer. The NCF urges the Prime Minister to support the proposal to establish a new commission so that we can ensure that care and health services are made fit for the 21st century."