The King's Fund

Social care funding and the NHS

  • Format: Printed copy
  • Author(s): Richard Humphries
  • Publication date: 17-Mar-2011

The impact of funding cuts to the NHS has been widely reported and discussed, but less attention has been given to social care – and, most importantly, to the inter-relationships of health and social care.

Social care funding has increased in real terms for the past decade, but there has been considerable variation in how that funding has been spent – in part because spending on social care is handled by local councils, whose circumstances vary. The wide geographical variations in cost and performance across a number of measures – for example, emergency hospital admissions, delayed transfers – reflect different relationships between health and social care. The government has pledged to facilitate closer integration so that people can receive a more joined-up service.

Social care funding and the NHS: an impending crisis? examines trends in spending on social care, looking at three scenarios arising from the 27 per cent real reduction in the central government grant to local authorities that between 2011/12 and 2014/15, social care spending will be fully cut, will receive some protection, or receive no protection. This suggests that there could be a funding gap of £1 billion by 2014 unless councils can achieve unprecedented efficiency savings. This would have a knock-on effect on the NHS, with cuts to frontline social care services leading to fewer people getting the help they need, causing more emergency admissions, delayed discharges and longer waiting times.