NHS Better Care Fund delayed after Whitehall review

  • A review has revealed that claims for policy to bring together health and social care services ‘don't stack up'.

    The government's policy to help stop the NHS from becoming overwhelmed has been delayed after a confidential Whitehall review has concluded that it would not work as hoped.

    The Better Care Fund, of £3.8bn a year, was meant to launch last week, however its introduction was surrounded in doubt after the Cabinet Office said there was little or no detail about how the expected savings would be delivered, reports the Guardian.

    A Whitehall source said the Cabinet Office believed that the claims for the Better Care Fund did not stack up and wanted "a lot more work done on the policy". Money Notes 2

    The fund was meant to begin in April next year and aims to cut overcrowding in A&E units and the number of people admitted for hospital treatment. The Cabinet Office has voiced concern that hospitals haven't been consulted enough about plans.

    A Whitehall source familiar with the situation said: "The Better Care Fund is based on the idea that if you invest to build up services outside of hospitals based on integrated care, that will help you to ultimately save money from the hospital budget. But the plans produced so far don't show in detail where savings will be achieved as a result of the investment, or that hospitals will be able to reduce their spending. Because they don't, the Cabinet Office don't think the plans produced so far are credible enough and don't have enough information in them about how the savings will be made, or detailed enough forecasts."

    A Conservative health spokesman said: "This government is finally doing what the last government talked about but never delivered: joining up the health and social care systems. The Better Care plans start from April 2015 but we asked for early versions to be completed a year early so we could check their level of ambition and deliverability, which is what is happening."

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: "Under this government, health policy seems to lurch from one shambles to another. This is further evidence that you can't trust the Tories with the NHS. After a botched £3bn re-organisation, the NHS simply could not afford to rush ahead with these back-of-the-envelope plans. This was a panicked response to Labour's plans for full integration. It was never properly thought through and was set on a dangerous and unrealistic timetable. This news will only deepen confusion in the NHS about government policy. It is suffering from a real lack of leadership when it desperately needs a clear direction at a time of tight finances. David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt must urgently clarify the status of the Better Care Fund."

    Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: "Ministers have built up the Better Care Fund as the answer to the care crisis ... Chronic underfunding and year-on-year rationing of care have left the system on its knees. Earmarking NHS cash for care was a bold move to stimulate innovative ways of working. But for the Better Care Fund to live up to the billing, we need to see a commitment to serious, ongoing investment and a strong focus on preventing people becoming isolated and slipping into crisis. The government's flagship care bill could make a real difference. But the reforms are at real risk."

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