The Department of Health and Social Care will not ringfence £240m social care funding, nor guarantee mass surgical cancellations will not happen again this winter.
At a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts yesterday the Department of Health and Social Care refused to guarantee that the £240m promised in the latest budget to assist with social care pressures this winter will not be utilised for other means. The lack of ringfencing means this sum, (which equates to only around £1.6m per local authority) could very easily be utilised for other means and could have no impact at all upon delayed transfers of care which are a key factor in freeing up much needed hospital beds.
NHS England’s figures for this winter in terms of target breaches and trolley waits are already worse than comparable ones for last year, and this is before bad weather or flu has hit to any significant degree.
Keep Our NHS Public co-chair and retired consultant paediatrician Dr Tony O’Sullivan says:
“This lack of forward planning and ringfencing for the £240m social care injection by the government (especially after £7bn has already been cut from the social care budget since 2010), shows a blatant disregard for the severity of the situation and further highlights how they are not taking the winter crisis seriously enough. Whether it was ringfenced or not it was never going to be high enough to cover what was required when divided evenly between all local authorities.”
The department of health and social care refused to guarantee that the money earmarked for social care in assisting with winter pressures would be spent for this purpose, making promises made at the budget hollow and “putting the accountability of taxpayers money at risk.”  The committee recommended that long term solutions for the integration of health and social care were put in place for winter.
In addition to this revelation the Department of Health and Social Care also refused to rule out that the blanket cancellation of surgical procedures as occurred last winter, would not happen again. The committee said that the allocation of funds purely for social care may be insufficient to meet demand this winter and that it had a record of implementing ‘short-term fixes’ to deal with the situation over winter.
Dr Tony O’Sullivan Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public says:
“Cancelling 50,000 operations last winter was a desperate last resort by a government who had failed to plan for the demands of winter and failed to learn from the events of the year before. The effect of cancelling these procedures caused untold distress to patients and left trusts in significant debt. To be potentially in this situation yet again is unacceptable and highlights how little regard the NHS is placed in by this government.”