BETTER CARE FUND NOT ON HOLD INSISTS GOVERNMENT
The government has dismissed reports that the introduction of the Better Care Fund will be delayed. The Guardian reported this morning that the £3.8bn-a-year fund, which will see adult social care and NHS budgets pooled and was due to start in April 2015, has been put on hold after the Cabinet Office raised concerns about the quality of local implementation plans. According to the newspaper the Cabinet Office, which is reviewing the quality of the plans, is concerned about a lack of clarity on how the expected savings from the fund would be delivered. But local government minister Brandon Lewis insisted that the fund would launch as planned. “It is completely untrue that the Better Care Fund has been put on hold,” he said. “The fund will begin next April as has always been planned, keeping people out of hospital for longer with better, more dignified care.” A Department of Health spokeswoman added: “We have set aside time to make sure all areas have developed comprehensive plans for joined-up care. “The Better Care plans start from April 2015, and we asked for early versions to be completed a year in advance so we could review them, check their level of ambition and test how they would be delivered. “This is what is happening now.” But Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said the fund should be delayed as it’s implementation is based on “wildly optimistic” assumptions. “While nobody can argue with the very sound principle of bringing health and social care closer together, the Better Care Fund is built on flawed logic,” he said. “The fund assumes that hospitals can quickly achieve a 15% reduction in emergency admissions and that these reductions will result in savings in the same year, at full cost. “But reducing admissions takes time and lowering the types of admissions targeted by the Better Care Fund costs money.” “With almost half of all acute hospitals already in deficit, there is a very real danger that shifting £1.9bn largely out of the hospital budget as this policy proposes, could lead to a widespread financial collapse across the acute hospital sector.” The Better Care Fund aims to reduce overcrowding in English hospitals by encouraging closer working between social care and the NHS. The Care Bill, which will legislate for the creation of the fund, is due to be approved by Parliament today.