Local authority leaders from across the West Midlands have written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt seeking “assurance as a matter of extreme urgency” that the government will release £150m intended for adult social care.
In a letter seen by Community Care, the 13 council bosses warn of “a catastrophic impact on local people” if any of the money is withheld.
In July, the government told councils that if they did not meet – by September – targets for reducing delayed transfers of care (DToC), their funding allocations could be cut. The number of delays attributed to social care services has repeatedly reached record levels during the past year.
Over the summer the Independent reported on a letter, sent by the Department of Health to councils responsible for delivering social care, warning that NHS England would hold authorities “to account” for delivering targets before the winter, and “take action” if they did not meet them.
Echoing a recent report issued by the County Councils Network (CCN), the West Midlands leaders criticised the government’s targets for reducing DToC numbers as unrealistic.
“For many CCGs and local authorities, including over half in the West Midlands, this is simply unachievable,” their letter said. “These local authorities have instead submitted trajectories to meet the target over a longer timescale.”
The letter also raised questions over the accuracy of the government’s DToC data, which apportions blame for delayed discharges from hospital on health or social care services, or both.
“We see regular examples in parts of the region where [NHS] Acute Trusts record delays as attributable to adult social care without following the national guidance,” it said. “This artificially inflates the figures and gives an erroneous impression of where the barriers to discharge actually lie.”
The leaders warned that “every pound that is withheld risks harm to our most vulnerable citizens”, adding that funding cuts to services such as home and residential care would be counterproductive in terms of reducing DToC numbers.
In a statement, West Midlands adult social care directors said they welcomed the council leaders’ letter, adding that it underscored that the funding concerns are not a “narrow political issue”.
Martin Samuels, co-chair of the West Midlands branch of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: “Adult social care services across the region work hard to ensure older, vulnerable residents can be safely discharged from hospital, at the right time, with the correct level of support in place.”
Samuels, who is also the director for adults and wellbeing at Herefordshire Council, added: “If this essential government funding is not released, the services provided to support residents to live safe, healthy and independent lives will be severely affected and as winter approaches, it could have a drastic impact on local people.” He said that the resulting extra pressure on the NHS could mean DToC targets “never being achieved”.
The Department of Health declined to comment on the letter or the status of the funding, saying that Hunt would “respond in due course”.