Essex’s health and care system in ‘crisis’: Elected Health and Care Commissioners to the rescue?

Adult social care information days coming to Cambridgeshire

Adult social care information days coming to Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford’s health and care system is “on the brink of crisis” – and elected police and crime commissioner-like officials could be handed a budget to fix it.

That is the eye-opening admission and subsequent recommendation from Essex County Council (ECC) in a report that called for “significant action” to be taken.

It states that Essex has a population that is ageing faster than anywhere else across the UK. By 2025, nearly one in four people in the county will be over 65 – a population termed ‘super-aged’ – and that the number needing social care support will grow from 35,000 now to more than 137,500 by 2030.

Leader of ECC, Councillor David Finch, said: “Our health is the most valuable asset we have but the system that underpins our care is on the brink of crisis. Demand for care and support is going up but there is less money to pay for it and Essex as an ageing county will feel those pressures first.

“We are doing all we can to address issues locally but some of these problems need national solutions. The next Government must act immediately and decisively to take decisions that ensure the long-term survival of the health and social care systems.”

In its paper, A Shock to the system: Saving our health and social care, the county council called for more powers to be given to Health and Wellbeing boards, of which there is one in Uttlesford.

It proposed the creation of posts for local Health and Care Commissioners, possibly elected, to ensure the future survival of the health and social care system.

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Without change, the authority has warned there will be a considerable funding gap and crisis in the system.

Uttlesford District Council’s cabinet member for health, Cllr Vic Ranger, told the Reporter he was not convinced going down the route of health and care commissioners was a good idea.

He said: “At first reading the paper has some interesting proposals and recommendations but I am not sure that having elected local health and care commissioners is going to be the most effective way of addressing the issues considering that this could be adding another layer of expenditure when the pressure is on maintaining a high quality patient experience.

“Essex has the responsibility on Health and Social Care. This paper highlights the concerns that everyone feels. We are working closely with them and the providers and will continue to do so.”

Chairman of the existing Uttlesford Health and Wellbeing Board, Professor Peter Fentem, wanted to find out more about what exactly Essex thought was a viable model for the future.

“Our first reaction is to suppose that we must write to David Finch about,” he said.

While both the NHS and the social care systems have undergone major reforms, there is growing concern among experts that the current system is “unsustainable”, according to ECC.

The pressures are being driven largely by demographic changes. Since the establishment of the National Health Service in the 1940s the population has grown significantly, people are living longer, and living longer with more complex medical conditions and care needs.

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