Significant cost shunting from NHS to social care revealed by survey

Widespread cost shunting from deficit-ridden NHS bodies to social services departments was revealed in a major survey this week.

Two-fifths of social services departments in parts of England where the NHS is experiencing financial problems are dealing with more referrals of people who should be receiving care funded by the NHS, such as those who should be eligible for continuing care.

Councils also said more than one-third of NHS trusts in financial deficit had withdrawn funding from services jointly agreed or funded with social care, according to the report by the Local Government Association and NHS Confederation, while 7.3 per cent of councils have had to tighten eligibility criteria for services.

A quarter of social services departments are negotiating with or taking legal action against primary care trusts over the non-payment of funds due to them.

The report comes a week after Community Care uncovered evidence of major cuts to social care in Wiltshire as a result of NHS deficits in the county (Wiltshire’s disabled people pay the price of cost shunting and deficit).

This includes the withdrawal of direct payments for leisure opportunities from 114 disabled people. The move will save the council £250,000 but has angered service users because there was no consultation before they received a letter informing them of the cuts.

The LGA and NHS Confederation urged local bodies to work more closely together to tackle problems.

David Rogers, chair of the LGA’s community well-being board, said councils did not want to start a “war of words” with the NHS, while NHS Confederation chief executive Dr Gill Morgan said a joint approach was vital when organisations were under financial pressure.

The survey had responses from 55 of 78 local authorities in areas where the NHS is in deficit.

Key findings of study

  • 10.9 per cent of councils affected by NHS trusts withdrawing from local area, section 28 or section 31 agreements.
  • 7.3 per cent of councils responded to NHS deficits by changing eligibility criteria for social care.
  • 40 per cent reported increased referrals of cases that appeared to be the responsibility of the NHS, such as continuing care.
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