NHS cuts will result in 'catastrophic' winter, council bosses warn
A catastrophic winter crisis is looming for social care with £150 million of vital funding under threat, warn council chiefs.
Now a joint letter signed by leaders of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Staffordshire councils has been sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pleading with him to help avert disaster.
The council bosses say ‘unachievable targets’ have been set for local authorities to try and reduce the delays in people leaving hospital – known as bed-blocking. They argue the majority of people waiting to leave hospital are actually held up due to other NHS services as oppose to council-run social care services.
But each council is set to lose millions of pounds each in its Better Care Fund for failing to hit the targets. The letter says: “NHS England’s position is that those local authorities who cannot meet the target will not have their BCF approved and will therefore not receive the cash transfer from the NHS to protect adult social care.
“This is funding of around £150 million in the West Midlands that has been transferred to local authorities for the last few years and on which we depend to fund a range of essential services including reablement, home care and residential and nursing care, all of which directly support the NHS.
“Without this funding these services cannot be sustained. With winter approaching this will have a catastrophic impact on local people, and will hugely increase pressure on the NHS, leading to a serious crisis. Every pound that is withheld risks harm to our most vulnerable citizens, and will mean that the delayed discharges target will never be achieved.”
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, added: “Everyone recognises the importance of ensuring that people leave hospital as soon as it is safe for them to do so. In the North of the county, through good practices, we have actually managed to reduce delays for people leaving hospital to practically zero.
“We want to replicate this across the whole county, but this of course takes time, so we have submitted locally agreed plans to achieve the targets by July next year, which is both safe and manageable.
“The sudden introduction of targets, which are impossible to meet, and consequent withholding of social care funding will mean we are unable to provide care for very vulnerable people and will make hospital discharge delays much worse.
“If the funding is not honoured, the impact on local people and local services as we head into winter will be profound and although this looming crisis is not of the Secretary of State’s making it is of his mending and we are asking him to act now to avert a crisis in care in the coming months.”