Delayed discharges: West Midlands councils say targets are impossible to meet
Local authorities in the West Midlands have warned the Government of a “catastrophic impact” on people needing care if pledged social care funding is not honoured.
The warning came after NHS England set what West Midlands leaders call new, unachievable targets for local authorities to reduce the delays in the number of people leaving hospital. Latest Government figures show that in most cases this is because people are waiting for NHS services, not social care.
NHS England says local authorities which don’t meet the targets immediately will not have funding approved as part of the Better Care Fund, which aims to support more people in their home and communities rather than being kept in hospital. This amounts to around £150m in the West Midlands which is needed to fund services for the most vulnerable people including homecare, reablement and residential care, all of which directly help the NHS.
Staffordshire County Council is one of the West Midlands authorities to sign a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking him to intervene and act immediately to avert the looming crisis. Leader Philip Atkins, said: “Everyone recognises the importance of ensuring that people leave hospital as soon as it is safe for them to do so. In the North of the county, through good practices, we have actually managed to reduce delays for people leaving hospital to practically zero.
“We want to replicate this across the whole county, but this of course takes time, so we have submitted locally agreed plans to achieve the targets by July next year, which is both safe and manageable.
“The sudden introduction of targets, which are impossible to meet, and consequent withholding of social care funding will mean we are unable to provide care for very vulnerable people and will make hospital discharge delays much worse.
“If the funding is not honoured, the impact on local people and local services as we head into winter will be profound and although this looming crisis is not of the Secretary of State’s making it is of his mending and we are asking him to act now to avert a crisis in care in the coming months.”
The new targets and timeframes are impossible for more than half of the local authorities in the West Midlands – a situation mirrored across the country and raised nationally by the Local Government Association. The letter from the West Midlands authorities has been signed by leaders from Staffordshire County Council, Walsall Council, Wolverhampton City Council, Shropshire Council, Warwickshire County Council, Herefordshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Coventry City Council, Worcestershire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council.