Councils threatened with ‘non-incentives’ to move health integration forward
The Government has indicated that it will start to “increasingly scrutinise” local authority performance and look at putting in incentives – or non-incentives – to encourage them to “step up to the mark” when it comes to effective health and care integration.
The Public Sector Executive has reported that health minister Philip Dunne, speaking at a Health+Care conference on June 29th, told delegates that his department would continue to work “with both the NHS and local authorities increasingly in an integrated way to try to ensure that patients are treated in a setting which most meets their needs”.
Mr Dunne criticised what he termed the ‘blame game’ that often takes place at the interface between health and social care, which he said was exemplified by a recent NHS Providers report that was accused of misinterpreting how social care funding should be used: NHS bodies claimed that their local organisations had been unable to secure a commitment from councils that the £1bn social care uplift would be used to reduce delayed transfers of care (DToCs), while the LGA argued the money wasn’t just meant to reduce pressure on the health system.
“I think there’s been a tendency, and I see this in the area I represent, for one side or the other of that equation to blame the other,” said Mr Dunne.
“We are doing a lot of work now – following the Budget in particular in March, when we committed an additional £2bn of funding to be spent on social care – to ease these pressures.
“One of the consequences of that funding announcement was that we are going to be looking at increasingly scrutinising local authority performance in reducing DToCs. And the first quarterly returns are due out next month, which we’re looking at carefully to try to put in place some incentives and, if necessary, non-incentives, to encourage local authorities to step up to the mark.”
Mr Dunne said the Government would also be working with acute trusts in order to free up between 2,000-3,000 hospital beds this year, which is equivalent to around five new hospitals, in preparation for winter.
“We can expect to see hospitals, primary and community care, and local authorities working increasingly closer together to ensure people are not stuck in hospital unnecessarily, relieving pressure for NHS staff who are looking to deliver the highest quality of care to those who do have to be in hospital,” he said.
In a separation session, Sir David Behan, the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission,said the Government now wanted his organisation to be able to regulate local government commissioning, rather than just NHS providers. The CQC is now looking into how this can be carried out legally, especially in the context of section 48 of the Health and Social Care Act – which essentially allows for investigations of social care services and local authorities if it is approved by the secretary of state.
The health minister’s comments on social care closely trail a scathing report by ADASS from earlier this week, which found that despite the cash boost in the Spring Budget, the overall outlook in the sector has remained negative.
The report prompted a handful of health and care bodies to reiterate calls for a system-wide review of the care market, which prime minister Theresa May must prioritise in her administration to ensure social care is strengthened in the short, medium and long term.