Councils have called for the Government to rethink a threat to strip them of promised cash if they fail to meet ‘undeliverable and arbitrary’ targets.
Under new Department of Health guidance, county councils have to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals by an average of 43% within the next few months - double the target of London.
The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to urge the Government to ‘urgently reconsider’ its proposals to withdraw extra social care funding promised in the Budget if councils cannot hit the targets within a short timeframe.
Mr Hunt has defended the new target regime as supporting the dignity and quality of life of patients and reducing pressure on hospitals.
But CCN warns the policy could lead to ‘perverse behaviours,’ with councils that have little realistic chance of hitting this winter’s targets having no choice but to reduce care packages for fear of a proportion of funding being taken from them in 2018/19.
Health and social care spokesman for CCN, Cllr Colin Noble, said: ‘There was a clear rationale to the Government making £2bn available for social care - it was nationally accepted services were at breaking point and the Government rightly listened.
‘However, these targets are a backwards step. 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.
‘Counties are the lowest funded councils for social care. They need a sustainable solution - not this double whammy of underfunding and the prospect of funds being withdrawn. We are confident we can put together a compelling care for an urgent rethink on this by the Government. If not, the elderly, vulnerable, and disabled people this money was supposed to support will be the ones who suffer.’
Writing for The MJ, Sean Nolan looks at the conflicts ahead for the social care green paper and outlines some of the key approaches CIPFA will be investigating.