GPs should play a more active role in working with carers and local authorities to reduce the burden of elderly care on the state, recommends a new Government-commissioned report.
The report on social care, written by economist Professor Andrew Dilnot and commissioned by the Government, finds that the current adult social care funding system in England is not fit for purpose and needs urgent and lasting reform.
It also sets out proposals for funding the rising cost of elderly care, including a £35,000 cap on individual liability for care costs and for GPs to take steps to slow down or prevent patients' demands on social care services.
The report says GPs should be ‘mindful of the effects that caring can have on someone's health', and to work with local authorities so that the profession ‘can play a far more active role in directing people to local sources of information, advice and support, when appropriate'.
‘Increased prevention activities and earlier intervention is beneficial. Such activities have the potential to stop an individual's needs escalating, while delivering savings to the state,' says the report.
The Government intends to consult on the proposals in Spring 2012, but GP leaders have given them a lukewarm reception.
GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said he felt that GPs' role in the care system was very small, and they already did what they could for patients with degenerative diseases.
He said: ‘Given that QOF is already aimed at many of these healthcare problems, I feel the real need for elderly care is social, not medical.'
‘The bottom line is that social care is expensive. Staff are paid minimum wage, and while they do their best, the truth is that we'll continue to get care home scandals because the nation doesn't pay enough.'
Another GPC negotiator, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said he was optimistic about the future of joined-up health and social care: ‘It's already part of a GPs' ongoing duty to make results in social care and identify carers, and I feel the report simply reaffirms this.'
‘Far more challenging is how the Government's response enables health and social care to work in a more collaborative manner. While this has been the aim for many years, there have been few examples of effective collaboration.'
‘What we need to do is to go beyond and deliver joint commissioning.'
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said the report was a ‘golden opportunity' to put social care funding on a sustainable footing.
‘The consequences of inaction will cost the public much more than taking the review forward,' he said.