Counties urge Hunt to rethink bed blocking targets

22 Aug 17

County council leaders have written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking him to reconsider proposals to withhold social care funding if bed-blocking targets are not met.

Under new guidance produced by the Department of Health last week, county authorities would have to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals by an average by 43% within the next few months – double the target of London.

Herefordshire has a target of a 69% reduction whilst Suffolk has a target of 67%, which county leaders have called “undeliverable” and “arbitrary”.

Colin Noble, County Councils Network health and social care spokesman, described the targets as a “backwards step” and said the resulting lack of funding would push services to breaking point.

“It is perverse that this money – designed to ease pressures – could be taken away if we cannot hit virtually undeliverable and arbitrary targets within a very short time period,” he said.

Noble highlighted that counties are the least well funded councils for social care and urged the government to draw up a sustainable solution not a “double whammy” of underfunding and the prospect of funds being withdrawn.

The CCN notes that the problem facing rural councils is even more acute because they contain the fastest growing elderly populations yet are the worst funded councils for social care. 

In total, the 37 county authorities receive £2bn less funding for health and social care than other parts of the country, according to the network.

The CCN argues that there is no quick fix to the issue of delayed discharges and only one third of them nationally are attributable to social care. 

Noble called on the government to develop long-lasting reform to social care that makes the system work better. He said counties, which spend 47% of the nation’s total expenditure on social care, want to work with the government to better integrate services.

However, the network argues the social care funding crisis will only be solved if funding discrepancies between rural and urban councils are resolved in tandem with a long-term sustainable funding settlement for all councils.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “No one should stay in hospital longer than necessary. It puts unneeded pressure on our hospitals and wastes taxpayers’ money.”

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