LGA: Switch NHS cash to councils to prevent social care crisis

The Local Government Association has renewed calls for the government to switch funding intended for the NHS to councils to prevent an adult social care funding crisis.

It wants 0.5% of the NHS budget for 2008-11 to be spent on preventive services for older people in England and said this would save the health service money by reducing hospital admissions.

Such a switch would be worth more than £500m a year, with the NHS budget for 2007-8 standing at about £90bn. In February, the LGA called for 1% of the NHS budget to be switched to local government.

In a letter to local authority leaders, LGA chair Simon Milton said that councils faced a real terms funding increase of between 0% and 2% in next month’s comprehensive spending review, which will determine government spending limits between 2008-11.

He said that a 2% settlement would “in theory”, given council tax increases of 5% a year, enable councils to deal with the impact of population pressures on adult social care; but a 0% increase would cause “real difficulties” in terms of cuts, increased eligibility criteria or both.

Milton, who is leader of Westminster Council, told his fellow leaders they would have to explain to residents that less government investment meant cuts to social care services.

But the NHS Confederation said the answer to a tight CSR was “not to rob Peter to pay Paul”, and that both the NHS and local authorities needed to receive decent funding settlements and to work together to tackle demographic pressures.

Chair Bryan Stoten said: “The NHS not only deals with the longer term problems of preventive care, they also deal with the immediate healthcare needs of their local population. Partisan solutions will not work.”

However, Milton claimed that councils had received a 14% real terms increase in government grant since 1997-8, when education is discounted, while the NHS had received a 90% hike.

In addition, over the past year the NHS funding crisis has seen many local authorities complain primary care trusts had “shunted” costs over to them by cutting services.

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