Hunt approves nearly all Better Care Fund plans

31 Oct 14
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that nearly all of the 151 Better Care Fund plans in England have been approved ahead of implementation of the reform from next April.

By Richard Johnstone | 30 October 2014

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that nearly all of the 151 Better Care Fund plans in England have been approved ahead of implementation of the reform from next April.

Social care funding older people

In a speech to the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, Hunt also revealed that £5.3bn of funding had been pooled from NHS and local government budgets for the initiative. This is more than the £3.8bn target set by ministers for the programme.

Following changes to the operation of the fund in July, which could lead to funding being used to support NHS-commissioned services, local areas had to submit revised plans by September 19.

Hunt said yesterday that there had been ‘remarkable progress’ in the development of the fund plans, which would be the first time anywhere in the world efforts had been made to integrate health and social care across an entire health economy.

‘Building on the excellent work by [care minister] Norman Lamb on the Integration Pioneers that many of you were involved in, local authorities and local NHS commissioners have joined together and painstakingly planned commissioning for adult health and social care with pooled budgets,’ he said.

‘Budgets from the local authority side are for the first time helping to reduce emergency hospital admissions and budgets from the NHS side are for the first time helping to reduce permanent admissions to care homes.’

He said that critics who had said the initiative was unachievable had been proved wrong, ‘because today I am delighted to announce the total amount of pooled budget for next year is even higher than the government’s original £3.8bn – it has risen to a staggering £5.3bn’.

He said that 146 of the 151 plans have been approved, with additional help being offered to the five remaining areas.

‘And that as a result of these plans NHS England estimate that the Better Care Fund will be supporting at least 18,000 individuals in new roles delivering care in the community. This will be a range of social workers, occupational therapists, care navigators, doctors and nurses, deployed based on local needs and delivering outside hospitals care to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

‘Taken together, these plans will mean savings [to the NHS] of £500m in the first year alone. More importantly in terms of patient care, they will mean 163,000 fewer hospital stays or 447 fewer hospital admissions every single day; and 100,000 fewer unnecessary days spent in hospital in total through organising better delayed discharges.’
Hunt added that this was ‘a great start’ but the key was now to go further.

‘This year, for the first time, CCGs have been offered the chance not just to commission social care jointly with local authority colleagues, but also co-commission primary care with NHS England.

‘I hope the result will be in many areas a single integrated approach to commissioning all out of hospital care, whether through community care, GP practices or social care, often using personal budgets to integrate care even better around the person.’

In addition, the same partnership approach that has been developed for the BCF could be expanded to other areas of health spending.

‘It would surely make more sense for local authorities to plan their smoking, alcohol, drugs and obesity strategies alongside NHS colleagues who have a direct financial interest in making them successful,’ Hunt added.

Responding to the announcement, Dr Johnny Marshall, the director of policy of the NHS Confederation, said that the hard work of putting together the BCF had been recognised.

‘We have heard from our members in many areas that the Better Care Fund has acted as an important catalyst, leading to them having difficult conversations about pooling resources and working collaboratively to transform health and care services for their communities. 

‘However, the BCF still holds particular risks to our members and to the health and social care system more widely. In particular, we reiterate our concerns about the ability of some local areas to achieve the reductions in levels of emergency activity and financial savings that the Better Fund requires.’

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