A group of 90 MPs including six former cabinet ministers and several Conservatives have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to launch a cross-party convention on the future of the NHS and social care.
Care for the elderly is under pressure through rising demand due to an ageing population and soaring costs placing huge pressures on the health and care services. Councils have warned of a £2.3 billion funding gap on social care by 2020 under current spending plans.
The MPs group includes 22 former ministers, among them Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell, and has urged Chancellor Philip Hammond to find more money in next week’s Budget to address short-term pressures in the system.
Conservative Health Committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston, who organised the letter alongside Liberal Democrat former care minister Norman Lamb and Labour former shadow care minister Liz Kendall, said any move by Mr Hammond to lift the public sector pay cap for NHS workers must not be funded by raiding existing health budgets.
And calling for a cross-party convention, she said: “The funding and workforce challenges facing our NHS and social care services are immense.
“Finding a long-term, sustainable solution must be raised up the Government’s domestic agenda.
“The public want to see this resolved and this letter demonstrates the willingness of politicians to work constructively across party lines to make it happen.”
The last attempt to shake up the social care system, dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ proved deeply unpopular during the general election campaign and was dropped by the Conservative Government. Ministers have promised to launch another consultation on the future of social care in 2018.
Meanwhile councils social care departments and the health service are struggling to cope.
The 90 MPs argue that a cross-party convention would avoid the temptation to indulge in partisan political point-scoring and lead to real cooperation on tackling the social care crisis.
Ms Kendall said: “Our population is ageing, more people need help and support and our care services desperately need more money to cope, yet any party that comes up with a significant proposal for funding social care risks their political opponents destroying them.
“We could carry on like this for yet another Parliament, and yet another election, or we could face up to reality: we will only get lasting change if we secure a cross-party approach.”
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England, backed the call and demanded to be involved in talks.
LGA social care spokeswoman and leader of Warwickshire Country Council Izzi Seccombe said: “Despite the best of intentions, we have seen too many failed attempts over the years to deliver a sustainable adult social care system. Governments of all colours, along with several notable independent commissions and reviews have attempted to bring about change but for various reasons, these have not succeeded. This is why cross-party consensus on the way forward is so essential.
“If we are to finally succeed, it is also vital that councils, which have responsibility for adult social care services and delivery of the requirements of the Care Act, are at the heart of all discussions and given a key role in defining and shaping the future of social care.”