Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Social Care

We cannot keep ignoring the crisis in social care

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 21 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2684
  1. David Oliver, president, British Geriatrics Society, and visiting fellow, King’s Fund
  1. d.oliver{at}

Social care for older people will be increasingly important as our population ages. So why the silence from politicians?

I’m an NHS doctor, and I want to speak up for social care. It’s vital to a large number of patients, and, with the population ageing, this number will grow. Yet local government funding of social care was cut significantly between 2010 and 2015, with an effect on services not yet seen in the NHS and that would cause public outrage if it were. In the lead up to the election our politicians took a vow of silence on the matter, perhaps hoping no one would notice.

“The NHS is the closest thing the English have to a religion”—so wrote the former chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson in his memoirs.1 The NHS is ingrained in our national psyche and values. And nearly every citizen or a family member has used the service serially.

Social care, by contrast, has far less prominence in the news, unless it’s a story about service failure, such as child abuse or exploitation, neglect of care home residents, or “bed blocking,” and there is little news coverage of the good that social care, housing, and voluntary organisations do to support people in living …

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