Concerns are being raised by leading council figures in England about a lack of confidence in the Government’s plans for health and social care. Meanwhile there is a lack of expectation that delayed transfers of care from hospital, which ran at record levels throughout 2016, will significantly reduce in 2017. That’s according to a snapshot survey carried out by Independent Age, the older people’s charity, and The MJ (The Municipal Journal), the UK’s leading weekly magazine for council chief executives and senior managers.

The analysis finds that:

  • 96% of respondent are not confident that the Government’s current plans for health and social care are sufficient to cope with future demand.
  • Despite the Government saying it is still committed to the introduction of a cap on care costs in 2020, 92% are not confident that this will be delivered in their area by this date.
  • 84% do not expect the number of delayed transfers of care from hospital in their area to significantly drop in 2017.

The survey sought views of council leaders, adult social care directors and council cabinet portfolio-holders responsible for adult social services in England. The survey received 52 responses, including 20 from council leaders.

The findings show that very few respondents still believe that the cap on care costs will be delivered in their area by 2020, leaving questions about how viable the Government commitment to introduce a cap really is.

2016 saw record numbers of delayed transfers of care from hospital both in terms of numbers of people experiencing delays, and the total number of bed days taken up by delayed discharge. Despite this, four out of five respondents do not expect the number of delayed transfers of care from hospital in their area to significantly drop in 2017. These results suggest Local Authorities feel that they have very limited or no control over the problem. Delays owing to patients awaiting a care package in their own home is now the second biggest cause of delayed bed days overall.

The survey comes just a week after Surrey County Council announced that they are calling a referendum to raise council tax by 15%, in part to pay for escalating demands for social care.

One London council leader responding to the survey said:

“How can I fully express the despair and anger felt by my councillors about the way central government is failing some of the most vulnerable people in our society by not properly funding social care and not allowing local government the devolved powers to step up to the challenge?”

Another council leader from the South West said:

“The usual strategy of blaming local authorities for a problem is simply not plausible. The Government needs to start listening to local authority leaders for a change, rather than thinking it knows best about everything in the public services.”

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Andrew Kaye, Head of Policy at Independent Age, said:

“The results of this survey are deeply concerning. Worryingly few council figures told us they believe that the number of delayed hospital discharges will fall this year. This means thousands of people who are well enough to leave could continue to be stuck in hospital because a social care package has not been put in place.

“While we have seen some short-term steps to relieve pressure on the NHS and local authorities, there is little evidence of a long-term solution. The impact of this failure is felt by millions of older people and their families who are unable to get the support or care services they need. The Prime Minister needs to recognise the scale of this crisis, and get on with a cross-party process to put a long-term solution on health and care funding in place.”

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:

“There’s mounting evidence of a crisis in adult social care. Health and social care integration alone won't meet the needs of people in need of care and support. More money is needed in the short- to medium-term and, given the scale of rising demand, we need political agreement across the parties on a long-term funding solution for social care."

Margaret Willcox, President Elect of ADASS, said:

“These findings are unsurprising and reflect the major cross-sector concerns about the deepening social care crisis and its impact on the NHS. It is a cause for celebration that more people are living longer but they are doing so with increasingly complex needs and with rising costs.

“Cuts in social care funding, challenges in recruitment in some areas and the welcome National Living Wage are putting increasing pressures on an increasingly fragile provider market. In the last six months, around two-thirds of councils have had residential and nursing home closures, and more than half have had care providers hand back contracts.

“Without significant, sustainable and long-term funding, adult social care will remain in a vicious circle, with people going to hospital because they do not have care at home and facing delayed discharges for the same reason.

“The social care system needs to be future-proofed; until then the funding crisis means thousands of older and disabled people, their families and carers will face an increasing struggle to get the care and support they need, NHS delays will continue to increase, more care homes will close and there will be more gaps and failures in the provider market.”

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