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Burstow toughens requirements on NHS to fund carers’ breaks

The government has toughened requirements on the NHS to fund carers' services after admitting funding allocated for the purpose was not being spent as desired.

The government has toughened requirements on the NHS to fund carers’ services after admitting funding allocated for the purpose was not being spent as desired.

Primary care trusts will be mandated to publish how much money they are allocating to support carers and transfer these funds to local authorities, while also publishing plans to support carers by next September, under the NHS Operating Framework 2012-13, published today.

They will also have to set out how many breaks the allocated funding could provide for carers.

This goes further than requirements in the NHS Operating Framework 2011-12, which called on PCTs to agree plans for support carers with councils and carers’ organisations and make these available to local people.

In last November’s refreshed carers’ strategy, the government allocated £400m to PCTs from 2011-15 to spend on carers breaks. However, care services minister Paul Burstow said today: “It has become clear from working with charities, such as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, that the money we made available for carers’ breaks, isn’t always getting to the people who need it.”

This is illustrated by research published today by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care, which found just 11% of PCTs have published a budget for carers’ services for 2011-12, contrary to the operating framework’s requirement.

A survey PCTs by the charities in September found four per cent of trusts were not investing any money in carers’ services in 2011-12, a further 5% could not confirm how much they were spending and 4% had still not set budgets for carers for 2011-12.

“We understand that PCTs are under financial pressure – but strongly caution that failing to support carers does not make economic sense and is morally indefensible,” said Princess Royal Trust chief executive Liz Fenton.

However, the charities suggested the funding allocated through the carers’ strategy had made some difference. An equivalent survey for 2010-11 found that 8% of PCTs were spending nothing on carers, while 16% were spending between £500,000 and £1m, compared with 22% this year.

The NHS Operating Framework for 2012-13 has made improving care for older people a top priority in the wake of several damning reports into NHS care in hospitals, most recently from the Care Quality Commission. This will include action to prevent older people going into hospital and that people with dementia have a single point of contact to co-ordinate their health and social care needs.

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