Funding needs to find way to front line, urge providers

Prof Martin Green

A temporary funding injection provided by government to improve hospital discharge over winter must not be lost in system bureaucracy, providers have warned.

Responding to the government’s announcement that £40m will be allocated to bolster social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital, Care England urged integrated care systems and local authorities to work with care providers in how best to use the money to improve outcomes.

The money is being allocated to improve social care capacity, strengthen admissions avoidance services and boost discharge rates – targeting the areas with the greatest challenges. It forms part of the £600m social care winter workforce package announced in July.

Professor Martin Green, Care England chief executive, welcomed the money but warned: ‘This funding will only be successful if there is true collaboration and partnership with care providers. Integrated care system and local authority leaders must work pragmatically with care providers to determine how this funding will best serve to improve outcomes.

‘We have too often seen small, temporary funding injections lost in system bureaucracy without serving to materially improve care.’

Local authorities can bid for the £40m to help boost adult social care provision over winter. They will be able to use the funding to buy more services aimed at keeping people out of hospital as well as more packages of homecare. It can also be used to increase the amount of specialist dementia support available in the community, services which also help to keep people out of hospital.

Minister for care Helen Whately

Care minister Helen Whately said: ‘We want to support areas with the greatest need this winter, and this extra £40m will help local authorities boost the support available for people who need it most.

‘It will improve social care capacity, boost discharge rates and avoid unnecessary admissions, freeing up hospital beds and reducing waits for care.’

Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, welcomed the money, before adding: ‘Of course, it will only work if that money reaches the front line of care delivery and supports care providers who are doing the job. That means using the £40m to help recruit staff and better reward those who are doing the job. Spread across the 152 local authorities that have responsibility for social care the impact could actually be very small.

‘Without sounding ungrateful, the real shame here is that the government has to keep drip-feeding these modest sums of money into social care because the sector is in such a dire state.

‘Years and years of underfunding have left social care desperate for little handouts like this whilst what is really needed is root and branch reform, proper pay for the workforce on a par with the NHS and a proper plan to get the sector on a more secure and sustainable footing.’

The £40m is alongside £200m to boost resilience in the NHS and help patients get the care they need this winter.