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09.12.15

Government invited to ‘crisis talks’ on health, care and BCF

Four health and social care agencies representing providers and commissioners across both sectors have invited health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Treasury and other Whitehall departments to urgent talks in face of a “mounting care crisis”.

The NHS Confederation, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Care and Support Alliance and the Care Providers Alliance have co-written a letter to Hunt, the chancellor and the communities secretary outlining serious concerns about the persistent funding gaps and lack of Better Care Fund (BCF) cash until the end of this Parliament.

Rob Webster, executive of the NHS Confederation, reiterated that the health service “is not an island – it is part of a single system”.

“It is counterintuitive to talk about frontloading NHS funding while not doing the same for social care. Without sufficient investment in social care, the sustainability of the NHS is called into question,” he said.

“It is vital that to achieve the government’s aims of transforming social care that we work together to agree a long-term plan for social care funding and provide support closer to home to help people to stay well.

“By resolving the question of social care funding, we will give the NHS a fighting chance of transforming the care that is delivered and ensure the most vulnerable in society are receiving the support when and where they need it.”

Referring to the chancellor’s social care announcements in November’s Spending Review, they said: “Ultimately, the package put forward will not enable us to fill the current gap in funding, cover additional costs associated with the introduction of the National Living Wage nor fully meet future growth in demand due to our ageing population.”

But issues with the BCF are equally dangerous, the leaders from all four bodies argued, despite the chancellor having poured more money into it, as revealed by NHE’s sister title, Public Sector Executive.

“The settlement for social care is backloaded with BCF funding not reaching levels of any significance until towards the end of this Parliament. This has significant implications in terms of the vital support needed by older and disabled people and their carers,” they said.

Yet as well as affecting the care system, it would also put the delivery of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Care Act at risk. “That makes no sense for older people, disabled people, their families or for taxpayers,” the letter added.

“We must target resources so that care can be delivered in the places and setting where people need it most in order to support people’s independence and wellbeing. If we do not collectively address the highlighted issues relating to levels and phasing of funding there is the potential for significant and adverse impacts.”

Adverse impacts included a growing pressure on the NHS, with more people admitted to hospital and more delays in discharges. It would also bring care and nursing homes to ruin, especially in areas where providers are predominantly delivering support to state-funded service users.

According to the letter, one of the main sticking points to be discussed with central government also included investigating the fate of the £6bn originally earmarked for the full implementation of the Care Act – before extra money is raised from the social care precept in council tax.

In response to the letter, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government told the BBC that councils already had enough for care services, with the BCF with social care precept meaning there would be another £3.5bn a year in the system.

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