Long-term view needed for pooled health and care planning

28 May 15

The government’s flagship Better Care Fund should be extended quickly so that both local authorities and the NHS can plan further integration of spending, an expert has said.

Speaking to Public Finance, CIFPA’s health policy adviser Paul Carey-Kent said the ‘number one priority’ for new care minister Alistair Burt should be to approve continuation of the integration programme, which has so far been implemented for one year, 2015/16.

Under the scheme, councils and the NHS were mandated by the Department of Health to merge at least £3.8bn of funding to deliver a more joined-up health and care system. Eventually, £5.3bn was merged across 151 schemes in England.

Carey-Kent told PF the fund should be in place for the whole of the next parliament.

‘This is a programme that consists of actions which are likely to take more than a year to fully roll out and be implemented successfully, and it’s also programme that is vital for the funding of social care going forward – if that is undermined then it will have a knock on effect on health,’ he said.

‘The ideal would be to say that over this parliament – for five years – we’re going to have the Better Care Fund as part of our platform.’

This could take the form of ministers confirming quickly that BCF will remain in place beyond 2015/16, but then setting out the details and amounts of particular funding steams at spending reviews, he added.

‘They could say it is our intention to make this a parliament-long programme, I think that would make sense.

‘What’s important about the BCF is the funding element, and the requirement that everyone goes forward with integration in some way.’

Carey-Kent also said there will not be a need to increase the prescribed amount of funding that must be pooled through the BCF, which remains set at £3.8bn.

‘The trouble with increasing that would be that the principle source of funding is from clinical commissioning group allocations, so if you were to say we’re going to put in £6bn that would be good from a local authority point of view, but would be quite challenging from a CCG point of view.

‘So that would depend a bit on the assessments of pressure on health, which I think are equal to those on social care, and getting a balance.’

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