LGA welcomes £300m to free up beds

11 Oct 01
A £300m, two-year cash injection that will be paid directly to local authorities will go some way to relieving bed blocking, the Local Government Association said this week.

12 October 2001

The package, which is linked to closer co-operation between local authorities, the NHS and private and voluntary care homes, was announced jointly by Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers, his local government counterpart, on October 9.

A third of the money will be paid this year, with the remainder in 2002/03. The initiative aims to free up 1,000 NHS beds this winter, improving a system where discharge of one in eight elderly patients is delayed unnecessarily.

LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham said: 'This additional funding will go some way to relieving the critical pressures within the whole local government and health care system.'

He was delighted that the money would go directly to councils. Previously, cash to alleviate winter problems was paid to health authorities, which would then pass on a share to local government. Many councils felt they were not given a fair share.

'It is local councils that provide a wide range of care, support and advice services that can help reduce the need for admission to hospital and facilitate timely discharge, thus preventing bed blocking,' Beecham added.

Janice Miles, NHS Confederation policy manager, welcomed the announcement. But she added: 'I am assuming that in order to get it, local authorities will have to show how they will use it and that it won't be used to offset other financial problems.'

Byers' department will contribute £80m while the remainder will come from NHS funds. Councils in areas with particular problems will be targeted. Birmingham City Council will receive the most cash – £3.2m this year.

'We are looking to see if it's a complete solution,' a council spokesman said. 'The government talks about the need to get the number of beds blocked down to 10%, but in Birmingham we have had difficulties even though 8% are blocked and we are spending 7% over our SSA [standard spending assessment], putting in £6.3m by raiding other budgets.

'However, it is reassuring that the government has listened.'


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