Almost nine in 10 GPs warned that patients were being put at risk by a lack of social care support with many saying they had seen increased levels of isolation among the elderly, more falls and accidents amid growing pressures on the NHS.
The warning comes in a report which calculates that simple, relatively inexpensive support for frail older could save the taxpayer an average of more than £10,000 per person per year.
It condemns cuts to social care as a “false economy”, making people more likely to be admitted to hospital or be forced to move into a care home.
The Red Cross provides social care – ranging from telephone check-ups and running errands to home visits or lifts to appointments – to almost 240,000 older people in Britain.
It asked analysts to calculate the potential savings to the NHS and social services in terms of various treatments or specialist care avoided, from its work.
Experts from the New Economics Foundation took a cross-section of people with different medical conditions, and calculated what they might have cost the taxpayer had they not received help at home. On average it worked out at £10,430.
The Red Cross also commissioned polls of doctors and the public about the effects of local cuts to social care.
With councils already facing cuts to reduce the deficit, there is already an estimated £1 billion shortfall in funding for social care, a figure expected to double in the next few years.
As a result most have begun rationing social care only to those with the most severe need, meaning that low-level home support is often the first to be cut.
The poll by ICM found that 82 per cent of the public thought that support for people with lower needs was already being cut – a figure which rises to 92 per cent among those with experience of a recent stay in hospital.
A specialist poll of GPs by GfK Healthcare found that 88 per cent thought their patients were being put at risk because of a lack of social care support.
The same proportion thought that cuts were also driving standards in social care down.
Sir Nick Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “Preventative and lower-level support has been historically underfunded by a system which treats people only when they have already reached crisis-point, and cuts are making a worrying situation even more dangerous.
“But these attempts to save money are in reality a false economy, because without lower-level support the chance that patients will rely on intensive and expensive hospital or residential support massively increases, ultimately adding to the financial crisis facing the social care sector.”
He added: “The practical and emotional support these services offer often makes the difference between coping or not, between independence or desperation, and between remaining healthy for as long as possibly or rapidly deteriorating into crisis.
“As politicians prepare to debate the future of social care it is vital they have the courage to think beyond the short-term and rethink the way care is delivered, prioritising vital preventive care which supports people to live with dignity and confidence in their own homes.”
Liz Kendall, the shadow care minister, said: "Our social care system is in crisis and has now reached breaking point.
"More than £1 billion has been cut from local council budgets for older people's social care since the Government came to power.
"But these cuts are a false economy, as more older people end up having to use more expensive hospital care.
"Helping older people stay living independently in their own homes with proper care and support is better for them and their families, and saves taxpayers money too.
"David Cameron must act urgently to tackle the care crisis and reform our system of care and support. This issue is too important to duck, and too urgent to kick into the long grass.”
Sourced from The Telegraph, 11th June 2012.