Perhaps 2016 will be remembered as the year the UK social care services reached crisis point.

The headlines were bleak: significant funding gaps in community services for older people, which could increase to £2.6bn by 2020; delays in discharging medically fit patients from hospital; regular breaches of safe hospital bed occupancy levels; a misalignment between government and the health and care sectors.

The 6% council tax rise announced in December is a start, but it diverts funds from housing and will leave some taxpayers out of pocket. What’s more, it will do little to ease the pressure of an ageing population, struggling without informal or formal care at home and faced with underpaid and overworked care staff battling an overstretched system.

Something has to change – and, fortunately, there are several ways we can begin to work towards a solution in 2017.

This should be the year that social care and healthcare finally start working together effectively. By integrating the two – something that has never happened since the NHS was founded in 1948 – care can become the seamless experience our elderly population deserves. There will of course need to be a culture shift for those working in the system, but the result would mean that medical treatment need no longer be detached from routine care in nursing homes and, importantly, we will be able to squeeze out more pennies from every taxpayer pound. There are already promising signs – local authorities should look to Greater Manchester which, in April 2016, became the first locality in England to merge its health and social care sectors and take control of its own budgets.

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