Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, today challenged the Government to ensure that social care services in Norfolk do not miss out on vital resources from the Better Care Fund, after Norfolk County Council was informed that local CCGs and NHS England plan to remove additional funding that was provided to protect social care last year.
The Better Care Fund, which pools resources from the NHS and local government to strengthen the integration of health and social care services in a locality, has been beset by concerns that the Fund is mainly being used to ease pressures in the NHS, rather than provide much-needed support to social care services which are under severe strain.
In a letter sent on behalf of West Norfolk, Norwich, South Norfolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and North Norfolk CCGs, seen by Norman Lamb MP, Norfolk County Council was informed that none of the CCGs are able to support spending plans to protect social care in the 2016/17 round of the Better Care Fund, due to pressures on CCG finances.
The CCGs admit that the decision, which is endorsed by NHS England, will leave Norfolk County Council “with a significant challenge in bridging the [financial] position during 2016/17”.
In Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Norman Lamb referred to the latest developments in Norfolk as an example of the failure of the Better Care Fund to properly support social care. He said that there was a “very real risk” that elderly people and people with disabilities would miss out, and asked how the Department for Communities and Local Government will work together with the Department for Health to address the situation.
Commenting after speaking in the House of Commons, Norman Lamb said:
“We have a deeply worrying situation in Norfolk. The whole point of the Better Care Fund, which I helped establish, was to invest more in joined up care which prevents people becoming more unwell and ending up in hospital.
“The decision by the Clinical Commissioning Groups to remove funding for the protection of social care is, in one sense, understandable, because they face an impossible financial challenge. But it is disastrous for vital support services for frail elderly people and disabled people.
“The ridiculous thing is that it will end up with more people being admitted to hospital with all the disruption to people's lives that that involves and it will cost more to the NHS.
“The bottom line is that the NHS and social care need more resources. That's why I will keep repeating my call for a cross party commission to develop a long term settlement for the NHS and care.”
Norman Lamb’s full question in the House of Commons was as follows:
“In my county of Norfolk, the clinical commissioning groups have told the County Council that they are withdrawing the money from the Better Care Fund that was available for the protection of social care last year, leaving at least a £7.5 million gap. What is he doing in his discussions with the Secretary of State for Health to ensure that social care is protected? The risk of elderly, frail people and disabled people losing out more is very real.”
The full response of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP, was as follows:
“The Gentleman knows from his experience at the Department of Health how important it is to make sure that the social care system and the health care system are joined up. Part of the integration of health and social care is to make sure that these people – whether they are patients of the NHS, or whether they are cared for by local authorities – can have the best care available delivered in the most efficient way.”