The Local Government Association, which represents over 370 councils across England and Wales, is calling on the Chancellor to use the Spending Review to urgently invest £2 billion to help transform the health and care system towards preventing ill health rather than waiting to fix problems only after they occur.
It says the Government urgently needs to recognise the importance of investing in prevention before people relying on care become victim to major consequences. The LGA is warning Whitehall that failure to tackle the crisis in the social care and health system will leave councils unable to manage future demand as it reaches unmanageable new levels. It says ignoring the problem will push the system to breaking point and people needing costlier and more acute treatment.
Currently, just five per cent of the entire healthcare budget is spent on schemes that prevent people from falling ill. In order to reduce accident and emergency admissions and reduce longer-term conditions, both the Government and the NHS need to rethink their approach to prevention and recognise the value of investing more in adult social care and public health.
With an in-year £200 million cut to public health budgets, councils are concerned that money is being reduced which could have helped many of these schemes become a reality. Already treating diabetes costs the UK almost £14 billion a year and obesity alone costs a further £7 billion.
The LGA has analysed the cost benefits of 11 prevention programmes across the country designed to improve people’s physical and mental health and found that:
- Programmes keeping people aged between 40 and 65 active could save as much as £3.10 for every £1 spent
- Telehealth care could have benefits of almost £2.70 for every £1 invested
- If £1 billion of transformation funding was spent on these programmes, including supporting unemployed people, reducing physical inactivity and tackling depression, money could be saved with knock-on benefits of almost £7.2 billion over a five-year period.
Politicians, Councillors and experts from across the country will come together at the National Children and Adult Services Conference this week – the biggest of its kind in the country (Wednesday) to discuss the urgent need for a prevention fund.
Councils have already warned that the combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and extra costs mean that the funding gap in adult social care is growing by more than £700 million a year, estimated to reach £2.9 billion by the end of the decade, even before the cost of the National Living Wage is taken into account in full.
Whilst in recent months, the Government has pledged to give the NHS £2 billion each year to help close the funding gap in health but no additional funding has been committed for social care services. This is despite the need for community services to be able to support and alleviate the pressure on the NHS.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA Community Wellbeing spokesperson, said:
“Unless the Government gets serious about investing in the type of programmes, we are all going to have to accept the consequences that entails. As councils up and down the country already struggle to cope with rising demand, an unhealthy population will only exacerbate the situation in future years – putting a bigger strain on services which are already at breaking point.
“The Spending Review provides the ideal opportunity for government to commit to investing in a long term strategy which invests in ways of keeping people healthier – improving lives and saving money for the public purse in the longer term.
“Continuously pumping money into the health system simply will not address the longer terms problems in our health and social care system. We need a radical overhaul of the way in which we keep people healthy so we can look after people now and in the future.
“We want people to live longer, healthier, more independent lives, and we also need to make sure that we have a system which will be there for future generations. If this is not addressed now, not only could we put our future generation’s health in jeopardy, but we risk creating a health and care system which simply buckles under the strain of an unhealthy nation.”