Local government leaders are investigating moves by NHS trusts to fine councils for delayed discharges from hospitals.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said it was aware of “attempts or intentions” in some areas to fine councils when delayed discharges were due to problems sorting out social care packages. He said they were collecting information on the issue and would continue to monitor it.
He added the practice was “completely counterproductive” and would not solve the problem.
Under the Care Act 2014, an NHS body can charge a council for a delayed discharge if it has received an assessment notice and discharge notice, but has not carried out the needs or carers assessment and the patient has not been discharged “by the end of the relevant day”.
Fines can also be imposed if a patient’s discharge from hospital is delayed because a council has failed to put in place arrangements to meet some or all of their care needs.
Figures published last week showed delayed discharges attributable to social care are at a record high. There were 73,331 delays in March 2017, a 34% increase on March last year. This is the highest level since December 2016, when there were 70,217 social-care related delays.
Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said NHS trusts were being asked to do “all they can” to improve costs and spending, which puts them in a difficult position.
She added: “While trusts need to work as closely as possible with local authorities to tackle this issue, at a time when they are under severe financial pressure, it is unavoidable that they look at all options to recover some of these significant costs.
“It is vital that money set aside for social care is used effectively by local government to ease pressure on the NHS and help avoid unnecessary delays for patients.”