The recent party conferences were an ideal stage to outline priorities and mandates for health and social care.
However, ahead of the Autumn Statement on 05.12.12, the common theme across all three conferences was a real lack of specifics.
The lagging economy and wider financial problems will continue to factor into health and social care reform and spending. Costly reforms proposed via the Care and Support White Paper in July; mean looming budget choices over how personal thresholds will be implemented.
At the Labour Party Conference, the One Nation narrative put forward in Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband’s highly personal and emotive speech emphasised the responsibility of all in society to be held accountable and help each other. “To be One Nation we must show compassion and support for all those who cannot work, particularly the disabled men and women of our country,” he said.
For the elderly, Miliband stated that One Nation means giving more dignity to the ageing population by tackling the on-going care issues that are facing many families across the UK.
Miliband also spoke of ending the “free market experiment in the NHS” arguing that, “your frail mum and dad are not getting the care they need because the Government says it can’t afford it.”
Although vague on specific policies, one such step Labour would take would be to consider plans to cut winter fuel allowance and other similar benefits to free up cash to fund social care for the elderly.
The Shadow Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP spoke of whole-person care delivery where social, mental and physical care could potentially brought under one umbrella in order to effectively treat individuals in the most comprehensive way.
In order for the Dilnot report recommendations to cap individual costs for care for elderly and disabled be implemented, these types of decisions will need to be made. Consequently, they also fit with the aims of the newly appointed Liberal Democrat Care Services Minister Norman Lamb to obtain cross party consensus on how to make capped costs a reality.
Health was certainly on the agenda at Liberal Democrat conference as delegates demanded changes to the health bill and backed a series of amendments put forward by Baroness Shirley Williams and former MP and Lib Dem activist Evan Harris among others. Perhaps stung by this reverse the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg did not reference health and social care in detail during his keynote speech.
At the Conservative conference in Birmingham, the new Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP focused on implementing Dilnot, although the Treasury has yet to release the details on how the proposals, which could cost more than £1.8bn a year will be funded.
He said: “We need to face up to some hard truths about how we are going to pay for social care. I am proud that next year’s Care and Support Bill will mean that no one is forced to sell their house in their lifetime to pay for care…But we also want to go further and implement the Dilnot cap on social care costs as soon as we are able.”
Post the hoopla and speeches, it remains to be seen in December how the Treasury will fund health and social care reforms and if the One Nation health and social care ideas catch on with more concrete policies, and future voters.