Yesterday the Barker Commission published its report on the future of the NHS and social care. Established by the Kings Fund, the Commission was led by Dame Kate Barker, a renowned economist.
The ‘vision’ in her report is one we’d all support: a properly funded, joined up health and care system that would, over time, provide decent social care for many more older people – this against a context in which 900,000 with a social care need are currently getting no help at all.
But the really tough question is how to pay for it? Here the Commission ‘lights the blue touch paper’ by proposing measures like means-testing winter fuel payment and TV licences; imposing National Insurance (at 6 per cent) on those who work past State Retirement Age; and ending exemptions from prescription changes (while reducing prices to £2.50 and continuing with season tickets).
OLDER PEOPLE’S INCOMES WOULD BE HIT
Age UK commented that these measures would mean quite a hit on older people’s incomes. We said we thought many would question how good a deal it was to give up the certainty of money today for the possibility of better care tomorrow. We called for much more detail about what a better system would look like and deliver.
The Commission says that as older people would benefit the most, better off older people should help pay for it, but we especially worry that those on modest means could lose more than they could afford.
For years politicians have been too frightened of these issues to tackle them and the appalling crisis in care we see today is the result. So even if we disagree with some of her proposals, we applaud Kate Barker and the Kings Fund for ‘daring to tread’ into this territory and we hope the Commission’s report will prompt a proper public debate.