NHS spending is being prioritised above social care and care services are unlikely to be protected to the extent promised, a Public Accounts Committee report on the Better Care Fund (BCF) has found.
A primary objective of the Fund was to protect the provision of adult social care services locally. However, the Committee say that the initial planning process for the Fund was deeply flawed, leading to a redesign in April 2014 which introduced the requirement that £1 billion be protected for the NHS.
The priority has therefore shifted from improving local services through integration to protecting NHS resources. This is worrying at a time when many local authorities are already reducing spending on social care as their budgets become constrained. Local areas are now at greater risk of not being able to implement the BCF policy.
Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report on the Better Care Fund, Richard Hawkes, Chair of the Care & Support Alliance, said:
“The Better Care Fund is an ambitious bid to address the crisis in care and move us closer to a preventive, more integrated, system that keeps people out of A&E and living independently.
“However, the comments from the Public Accounts Committee that NHS spending is being prioritised above funding for social care are very concerning – particularly at a time when councils are struggling to protect social care budgets.
“Ultimately, the only solution to the care crisis is sustainable investment in social care. Chronic underfunding has left hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people who need support to do the basics, like getting up or out of the house, cut out of the care system.
“People become isolated, can’t live on their own and slip into crisis, which inevitably has a knock on effect on the health service that is forced to pick up the pieces. This also has a huge impact on carers, who we know are struggling.
“The care crisis won’t be solved unless all those who need care get it. That is the urgent task facing all political parties”
Public Accounts Committee: Planning for the Better Care Fund: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmpubacc/807/80702.htm