The Prime Minister has used his first major speech since the General Election to set out the government’s plans for a “seven-day-a-week” NHS. As well as £8 billion in extra funding, David Cameron has promised “proper joined up care built around what patients need”.

Aspire is keen to know what this pledge will mean in practise. If Mr Cameron is committed to joined up care, might he be open to having a wider view of this concept and consider resolving the lack of suitable housing for disabled people?

In our previous blog piece, we highlighted the shocking lack of suitable housing available to wheelchair users. This housing shortage has a significant impact on the NHS and therefore should be a factor in the government’s vision for joined up care. Aspire research has shown that 20% of patients with Spinal Cord Injury are discharged to a nursing home, often because suitable accommodation is not available in the community. Further Aspire research in partnership with Loughborough University has shown that patients discharged to nursing homes are likely to develop further complications such as pressure sores which can lead to readmission into hospital, with a resultant impact on the NHS.

Mr Cameron also used his speech to set out his plans to improve mental health services. Aspire’s research shows that where patients with Spinal Cord Injury are discharged to nursing homes, this can have a devastating impacts on their mental health. Many develop severe depression and suicidal thoughts, sometimes requiring NHS treatment.
Clearly, therefore, solving the other housing crisis could significantly relieve pressure on the NHS, and Aspire will continue to work towards this goal. At the moment the responsibility for housing lies within the Department for Communities and Local Government, whereas the NHS comes under the Department for Health. Aspire believes that real joined up care needs to overcome these departmental barriers as the NHS has a stake in the standard of housing that people live in.

An accessible wet room can reduce the need for a spinal cord injured person to require bathing support from their local council. An accessible kitchen can empower a disabled person to prepare a meal for themselves rather than relying on social care support to prepare meals. These housing related solutions can make a positive difference to people and at the same time, save the NHS and local council’s money.

We need to be building housing with health and social care needs in mind and joined up care should recognise the impact that housing has on health. That is why we have been consistently calling on successive governments to ensure that 10% of all new housing is wheelchair accessible.

Aspire welcomes the government’s focus on improving the NHS, and their commitment to invest more money to improve services. However, Aspire would like to see this pledge matched by a willingness to investigate the true sources of many problems for the NHS, and promises to get behind joined up care in the fullest possible sense. That includes having housing as an integral part of that vision.