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Councils using NHS funds to prop up existing social care, study finds

Local authorities are using funds from the NHS to keep existing social care services afloat, it has been claimed.

MHP Health, a healthcare consultancy, analysed how councils spent £1.5bn worth of funding transferred from the NHS in 2012-2014, which was aimed at improving care for vulnerable patients such as the elderly and the mentally ill.

However, it concluded that the largest category of spend was on maintaining the eligibility of existing social care services, with relatively little spent on mental health services.

The report authors said these findings questioned whether the Government’s Better Care Fund – the £3.8bn fund to integrate health and social care budgets – would succeed.

The MHP Health report, out today, found that ‘local authorities allocated £349m across the two years to maintaining eligibility criteria aimed at ensuring access to existing services’.

This constituted 23% of all funding transferred in 2012-13 and 24% in 2013-14 and compared with less than 4% allocated towards mental health services.

Richard Sloggett, associate director at MHP Health, said: ‘This research raises serious questions about whether the Better Care Fund will be used to deliver truly integrated local services or as a means to prop up existing social care services.’

‘If local health and care commissioners are to draw up informed plans about how the Better Care Fund will be used, there is a real need for greater evidence about the cost and impact of interventions that support integration.’

Richard Hawkes, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, warned that integration efforts risked being ‘undermined by chronic underfunding’.

He said: ‘Councils are already rationing care to older and disabled people who need help to get up, get dressed and get out of the house. While this remains the case, neither the Better Care Fund nor the Government’s wider care reforms, can possibly deliver on their promise.’