National Audit Office Documents Social Care Failings

The National Audit Office has warned that a new government initiative to treat more people in the community has fundamentally failed in its modus operandi.

NHS England and the Department of Health believed that the Better Care Fund for England could achieve savings in excess of £500 million annually.

Yet not only has the scheme failed to save money, but figures indicate that it has also had no impact on the number of free hospital beds.

The fund was originally set up with £5.3 billion of NHS and local authority money back in 2015.

One positive of the scheme was the fact that the fund first resulted in more joined-up health and social care provisions.

The National Audit Office report found that 90% of local areas agreed that delivery of their plan had improved joint working.

But the expected reduction in hospital workload has not materialised, in fact the National Audit Office report warns that hospital admissions have in fact increased.

“Local areas planned to reduce emergency admissions by 106,000, saving £171 million. However, in 2015/16, the number of emergency admissions increased by 87,000 compared with 2014/15, costing a total of £311 million more than planned.”

The National Audit Office also found that the number of delayed transfer cases had risen.

Local authorities had estimated that using the fund they would reduce delayed transfers of care cases by 293,000.

But instead the number increased by 185,000, “costing a total of £146 million more than planned”, the report stated.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, asserted that although significant investment of both money and commitment had been made in this new scheme, results have not been forthcoming.

“So far, benefits have fallen far short of plans, despite much effort. It will be important to learn from the over-optimism of such plans when implementing the much larger NHS sustainability and transformation plans.”

Responding to the critique, an NHS England spokeswoman suggested that the scheme can form part of a broader strategy.

“The obvious lesson for the next phase of care integration is that joining up local NHS and council services may be worthwhile, but is not by itself a silver bullet solution to wider pressures on health and social care.”

Echoing these sentiments, a Department of Health spokesman suggested that the fund was merely “one element of this government’s programme to integrate health and social care”.

He noted that the report also attributed some benefits to the fund, including that it had “incentivised local areas to work together better, with nine out of ten places saying their plans are improving services for patients”.

 

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