Confed chair: NHS and councils must ‘develop different relationship’

The crisis in social care can only be addressed with a different relationship between health services and councils, the chair of NHS Confederation said today.

In an appearance before the Communities and Local Government Committee, Stephen Dorrell said that the consequence of failure to join up public services was placing “avoidable demand on the NHS”.

Both Dorrell and Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, warned that acute shortages in social care are contributing to increasing rates of demand and delayed discharge.

Dorrell said: “I feel very strongly that the local authorities and the NHS in each locality need to develop a different relationship with each other in order to address prevention, intervention, early discharge.”

The government is understood to be considering allowing councils to raise the council tax precept in response to growing outrage about the funding shortfalls in the social care system, as reported in NHE’s sister title PSE.

NHS England has introduced additional interventions to help trusts identified as having high rates of delayed transfers cope with winter pressures.

Dorrell added that “some statements to the press in different localities” had indicated that “old behaviours [were] reasserting themselves”.

“I think it is absolutely important, going into the New Year, that those behaviours are discouraged,” Dorrell said.

He insisted that improving health outcomes would not just involve health and social care, but other services such as housing and even libraries.

In particular, Dorrell said that trust between the NHS and local authorities was “undermined” when local authorities were “not seen to be making a contribution as a partner” to public health services.

He called for more integrated care, which would “reintroduce local accountability” to decisions about healthcare.

Stevens also told the committee that integration alone couldn’t solve the funding pressures on the NHS, and should not be made mandatory on a national level because there would be “no security” about the social care floor contribution.

He defended the controversial STPs as a way to deliver integrated care “within the system”.

Stevens added that when the STPs are implemented in the spring, they will need “a governing partnership involving councils and all parts of the NHS to actually put them into action”.

Speaking at the Health+Care conference earlier this year, Dorrell said that STPs offered a “new vision” for integrated care.

However, NHS England warned today that it has limited funds to meet the new capital requests from the STPs, adding to fears that they will lead to funding cuts.

In the longer term, however, Stevens said that the only option for social care would be “a big set of changes and a new consensus”. He repeated his suggestion of a “triple guarantee” on pensions, housing and care funding for older people.

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