London’s health and care system performs relatively well at organising prompt adult social care packages and minimising delayed discharges from hospital. However, there is still much more to be done, and we certainly aren’t spared the winter pressures seen in the rest of the country.
Every year we see a seasonal spike in levels of demand – particularly around mid-January. While this winter has not yet seen any major flu outbreaks or extreme weather, services across London are still extremely busy.
And although media attention tends to focus on hospital A&E performance, the adult social care services run by London’s boroughs – which are such a crucial part of health and care provision – are also under increased strain.
With the number of people requiring adult social care continually increasing (10% of London’s adult population will have care needs by 2030), it can be a challenge to arrange social care in a timely fashion for those leaving hospital. But it’s a challenge London has been getting to grips with through effective planning and partnerships.
We’ve seen adult social care services across the capital proactively focus on prevention and working hard to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions in the first place. Measures such as heavily promoting the flu jab, liaising closely with colleagues in local health services, and sharing information on care placement vacancies are helping keep people out of hospital and avoiding delayed transfers of care when hospital patients are ready to leave.
The recently-announced NHS Long Term Plan has a welcome focus on integrating health and care provision and driving forward the prevention agenda. The additional resources going into the NHS should go some way towards relieving the pressures local health and care services are under. I was particularly pleased by the promised investment in primary and community health – and I look forward to health partners working with us in local government to ensure service development addresses the needs of local communities.
However, a similarly long-term approach is now needed for adult social care. It is increasingly important that the government moves forward with the green paper on adult social care. Local government needs the assurance of a sustainable funding base so that services can keep pace with our aging population over the next 10-20 years.
For now, London has proven itself capable of coping with winter pressures. But there’s no guarantee this will remain the case. Making a success of the NHS Long Term Plan, maintaining A&E performance, and – most importantly – providing high-quality care to Londoners, all depends on the resilience of adult social care over the next decade.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot MBE is London Councils’ Executive Member for Health & Care