Flagship social care scheme missing targets
A government scheme to ease pressure on hospitals by boosting social care services for the elderly is failing to meet its targets, according to new figures.
Freedom of information requests to councils by The Observer reveal that 58% of targets for improving care in people’s homes and local communities were being missed.
Only 218 of 515 targets to improve services were being met by the 98 local authorities with responsibility for social care in their area.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee, said the system was “at a tipping point”.
“We are seeing indications of the great stresses in the system and these need addressing now,” she said.
The £4bn Better Care Fund is designed to ease pressure on hospital bed places and waiting lists by allowing more elderly people to stay at home for longer.
Under the system councils receive money, mainly from the NHS budget, in return for introducing schemes to reduce demand for hospital care.
One senior NHS manager told the newspaper the figures suggest the fund is turning out to be “a waste of money”.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, the umbrella group for NHS hospitals, said attempts to improve out-of-hospital care were “going backwards in many places”.
He added: “These findings show that the Better Care Fund – a key government scheme to increase out-of-hospital care – is not delivering as intended.
“Just at the point when the NHS desperately needs more out of hospital care, we seem to be going backwards in many places. That can’t be right.”
Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation umbrella group, said: “These figures are very worrying as we head into what could be a very tough winter for the NHS…
“We have a perfect storm going on at the moment of unprecedented demand for care, the fact that we have reached a tipping point in terms of the demographics, and cuts to local councils that are among the biggest in their history.”
Separate data from the King’s Fund show councils across England will raise £382m a year from the new social care precept on council tax in 2016-17, a fraction of the funding gap they face.
The thinktank’s analysis shows the policy will raise less than 3% of what councils will spend on social care, excluding the added £612m cost now being faced as a result of the planned boost to the living wage.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are giving local areas access to up to £3.5bn extra for social care by 2020.
“While many areas are already providing high quality services within existing budgets, the Better Care Fund, which brings together health and social care provision locally for the first time ever, will get additional funding in the next few months to raise standards further.
“This government is committed to ensuring those in old age throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care.