Norfolk health organisation warns of looming crisis

A crisis in healthcare looms unless the NHS, social services and the private sector unite in the face of deep budget cuts, a leading care organisation has warned.

Norfolk Independent Care (NIC), representing the county's independent and voluntary providers, hopes to broker an agreement between the three branches so they work more closely as a new and difficult age dawns.

The county council is facing significant spending cuts which could impact on front line services, while the NHS is to undergo radical re-organisation with the scrapping of primary care trusts in favour of the new GP consortia, which will eventually take over care commissioning at a community level.

A report published by the King's Fund think-tank has warned that local authority social care services could face a funding gap of at least �1.2 billion by 2014/15, despite the government's pledge that social care will receive an extra �1 billion in that time.

The report, published earlier this month, predicted that councils would struggle to to protect home help and care home places, leading to increased hospital admissions and longer delays in discharging people because of the lack of support waiting for them.

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In its response to Norfolk County Council's consultation on spending cuts in December, the NIC warned that cuts in social care would cost the government more in the long-term and could even lead to hospitals being over-run.

'If the proposed cuts are made the national purse will have to provide more funding to deal with the crisis in care the likes of which have not been seen in living memory,' its report, Prevention is Better than Cure, states.

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'The preventative nature of most social care will be lost and critical care will increase, the effect of which will mean significant additional financial burden to the NHS to the point where there will be a crisis in quality and capacity. The potential consequences for the most vulnerable in our society are clear and disturbing.'

An NIC meeting bringing together leading healthcare figures, including North Norfolk MP and former shadow health secretary Norman Lamb, will be held on Friday to seek an agreement on the way services such as care home places are commissioned in the future.

Chairman Dennis Bacon said: 'There is an overriding need to ensure that the key stakeholders in health and social care are working together to find a solution, rather than individuals looking to plough their own furrows, otherwise the system will implode.'

Mr Lamb, chief political adviser to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, said he supports efforts to bring health and social care together.

'We have not been smart enough in the past at using money effectively,' he said. 'These are difficult times and the only way to ensure services are protected is to really focus on making more efficient use of the resources available. It's not just desirable that we do that, it's imperative.

'We need reform to make the system fairer. We need to get more money into the care of older people. Because we have an ageing population, the problem is growing and growing rapidly.

'It's one of those issues that needs to transcend the political space. The mark of a civilised society is making sure people with care needs are properly looked after.

Mr Bacon said Norfolk faced additional pressures because of its size and its widely dispersed elderly population.

'We have two problems that when taken together become quite acute,' he added.

The meeting will be held at Dereham Football Club, in Norwich Road, from 1.30pm on Friday.

Speakers at the meeting will include Harold Bodmer, director of county council's community services and Andrew Morgan, CEO of NHS Norfolk.

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