The shadow care minister has revealed for the first time that the Conservatives would ring-fence NHS money for dementia care and other specific health programmes.
The surprise pledge from Stephen O’Brien follows a string of reports showing primary care trusts could not account for their use of specific funding to implement the dementia, carers and end-of-life care strategies, none of which are ring-fenced.
O’Brien told Community Care: “We will not just ring-fence but increase NHS budgets year-on-year. Therefore, within any strategies we would have within that, it would be our job to make sure that that money reaches the frontline services it’s designated for and is not absorbed by inefficiencies or overhead costs or trying to bolster.”
The all-party parliamentary group on dementia last month revealed that nearly two-thirds of PCTs could not account for how they had spent their share of £150m from the Department of Health to help implement the national dementia strategy.
The report followed findings that 80% of the £50m allocated to PCTs in 2009-10 to fund short breaks for carers had not been spent as desired, and a third of PCTs could not account for £88m in end-of-life care strategy funding for the same year.
O’Brien said he “could not understand” why the Labour government had failed to ring-fence these funds in the first place.
It is not clear how a future Tory government would treat the £90m allocated for dementia in 2010-11 and the party has not announced any further funding beyond that to implement the dementia strategy.
Andrew Chidgey, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Dementia care is still a postcode lottery. O’Brien’s proposals to ring-fence budgets are therefore very welcome”.
O’Brien’s comments came as part of a series of interviews with social care spokespeople from the main parties about their plans for dementia care. Read the full interviews.