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Health Series: Expert Comment

NHS has ‘neglected’ housing warn care experts

Commission says NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens 'neglected' the role of housing in his plans for the NHS at City event


Chief Executive Simon Stevens has missed a major opportunity to save the NHS billions due to neglecting the critical role that housing plays in keeping people out of hospital in his five year plans for the NHS, according to The Commission on Residential Care at an event held at City University London.

Launching a blueprint for action, the Commission - chaired by Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP, former Minister for Care Services and including Professor Julienne Meyer CBE from City University London - warns that a lack of suitable housing for disabled and older people means that only the richest will get a proper choice about where they live and the care they receive, with little more than a 'tattered safety net' for the rest. It is also calling for a rapid review of health, care and housing demand and spending by the next government to ensure that the whole system is fit for purpose and sustainable for the future.

Commenting, Mr Burstow said: "For far too long we have ignored the housing needs of older and disabled people. As a result we are now heading for crisis, with inadequate and poor quality housing adding ever increasing pressure to an overstretched health service and costing the taxpayer billions."

"That Simon Stevens' NHS Forward View neglected the role of housing was a massive missed opportunity to keep people out of hospital and feeling in control of their lives and their independence. Addressing this must be one of the first priorities for any new government. There must be a non-partisan fundamental review of health and care spending including the vital contribution that housing can make."

With almost 450,000 people living in care homes across England, and five million disabled people currently in need of accessible homes, a radical approach is needed to deliver housing with care fit for the twenty-first century - from accessible housing in the community to specialist nursing care. The Commission warns that with the number of people over the age of 65 set to nearly double by 2019 and an additional 239,000 over 85s predicted to need round the clock care by 2030, failure to act will create unsustainable pressure on the NHS and leave people struggling to cope without the support they desperately need to live independently.

Ahead of this month's Budget, the Commission has written to the Chancellor George Osborne asking him to take urgent action to ensure a sustainable funding settlement for housing, health and social care.  In addition, the Commission is calling on the Government to:

  • Introduce the concept of tenancy in care homes so that people do not pay 'hotel costs' but rent, alongside service charges and care fees
  • Introduce a new responsibility for the Office for Budget Responsibility to conduct a five-yearly, 20-year projection of demand for housing with care services
  • Invest more in the care workforce to ensure this vital workforce is properly remunerated and trained
  • Ensure all new homes are built to Lifetime Homes standards and ten per cent are fully wheelchair accessible so that people have a real choice around where they live

Professor Julienne Meyer CBE said: "We need to realise that the current system is not working, and we must demand a better system of integrated care across both public and private sectors. The economics don't add up, and we urgently need a rethink about how we fund health, social care and housing to better meet the needs of frail older people.

"We need to stop thinking and working in silos and pull together to find a better solution. As a result integrated working across the whole system is required to help people fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose; before ultimately going on to have a peaceful death, in a place of their choice."

Download the full CORC Blueprint for Action.

Lifetime Homes Standards

The Lifetime Homes Standard is a series of sixteen design criteria intended to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use at minimal cost.

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