Let's Talk Merton is our monthly informal political discussion, which takes place on the 2nd Monday of the month.
In November, the theme was the challenges of health and social care. See below for the full review of the meeting.
Health and social care - the Let's Talk Merton view
With one of the five hospitals in South-west London at risk of closure, Merton Council scrapping social care services (including Meals on Wheels and support for carers) and an imbalance in funding for mental health, the challenges facing health and social care are evident and pressing. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to the challenges of health and social care.
A dedicated tax, as proposed at the recent Liberal Democrat party conference, would help meet rising costs and could be accepted by the electorate. However, with an ageing population, more complex health problems and reduced family support, we can’t just tax and spend our way out of the problem.
We need greater cohesion between health and social care services to maximise efficiency and impact, and to avoid savings in one area increasing costs in another (for example, reduced social care for the elderly can increase demand for hospital beds). Could London mirror Manchester and consolidate health and social care services under the Mayor? This would reduce the role of the Council, but as evidenced by Transport for London, unified management can have huge benefits, and we can certainly find ways to ensure local accountability. And it may be necessary to close or centralise some services. Although this is an emotive subject, and opposition to such plans can often be a vote winner, if access, transport and broader community concerns are adequately addressed, consolidation of services can be beneficial. But to achieve this we need to empower communities and service providers to engage in robust, rational and transparent debate, and to build greater awareness of the costs of our vital health and social care services.