Delayed discharges by Katie Leason

Social services are set to receive an extra £300m over the
next three years to tackle bed-blocking.

Health secretary Alan Milburn announced the additional money last
week during the second reading of the Community Care (Delayed
Discharges) Bill in the House of Commons, with the intention of
providing “a positive incentive to make the system work”.

He said that an extra £100m would be transferred from the NHS
budget to social services for each of the three years of the scheme
to tackle delayed discharges.

Under the bill, social services will have to pay a hospital for the
cost of caring for any individual whose discharge has been delayed
as a result of the department failing to organise alternative care.
The measures will take effect from April.

The Local Government Association described the transfer as a
response to the growing opposition to the “fundamentally flawed,
unworkable bill”.

The Association of Directors of Social Services welcomed the extra
money but stressed that it wanted to work with the Department of
Health to make sure the necessary services could be

But Jenny Stiles, deputy head of policy at older people’s charity
Help the Aged, dismissed the announcement as “stunningly

“Even with this funding, councils will not have time to invest the
extra money to improve services before the fining begins and the
system creates needless and costly bureaucracy,” she said.

During the bill’s second reading, shadow health secretary Liam Fox
said, under the proposals, local authorities would be blamed for
something that was beyond their control. “It will place new burdens
and costs on them. It is based on false assumptions. It will
increase bureaucracy and red tape, damage health and social care
relationships, produce perverse incentives and increase the
likelihood of decisions on care being taken inappropriately,” he

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Paul Burstow added that it
would “create a blame game” between the NHS and social services,
distort priorities and leave people waiting still longer in their
homes for the care they needed.

Labour MP David Hinchliffe, chairperson of the House of Commons
health select committee, said that he fundamentally disagreed with
the bill’s principles, warning that they would prove damaging to
other government policies.

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