BGS statement in response to NHS White Paper

11 February 2021

The British Geriatrics Society welcomes plans outlined in the NHS White Paper to reduce bureaucracy and increase integration across health and social care. While legislation will not remove all of the current barriers to integration, it will help to ensure that older people are able to access the health and care services that they need. We were also pleased to see recognition of the many innovations that have been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to ensure beneficial changes are maintained.

In the Industrial Strategy published in 2017, the Government outlines the Ageing Society Grand Challenge, recognising the benefits that an ageing population brings to society. This ageing population does however require additional support and while it is encouraging to see the White Paper acknowledge the demands on the health and care system from a growth in the ageing population, specific plans to better support older people are needed. The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected older people, and in its wake there will be substantially more demand arising from the backlog of delayed treatments, deconditioning and increased frailty. The failure to recognise the needs of the demographic group who use health and social care services the most is a glaring omission from this crucial document.

The NHS and social care workforce has been under immense pressure for many years and this has been exacerbated throughout the pandemic. The White Paper is disappointingly light on detail regarding how the shortfall in the workforce will be addressed. The psychological impact of the pandemic on the NHS and social care workforce will be significant. It will be important for the Government to address this in order to prevent a mass exodus of health and social care staff.

It is also extremely disappointing that the Government have not taken this opportunity to set out in more detail their plans for social care. This Government have promised on several occasions to reform adult social care and so far have failed to deliver on this. The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings in social care and action to put in place a sustainable solution is well overdue.

Dr Jennifer Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, commented:

While the BGS welcomes the intention for better integration of health and social care, the Government must go further on plans to support older people and those who care for them, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A reorganisation of the NHS on this scale must set out how the health and social care workforce will be strengthened and supported, and must finally address the lack of progress on social care."