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By Debbie le Quesne

Care funding crisis: Now we find there’s NHS cash going spare

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A cross-party group of MPs and peers is asking the Government to allow unspent health budget cash to be used for social care rather than being taken back into Treasury funds.

Wait a minute; did I read this Telegraph story correctly? MPs and peers telling us there is spare cash. Funds available when it appears some hospitals are underfunded and the NHS is feeling more than a little off colour.

And Monday’s tale gives us more food for thought. These same MPs and peers “calculate that less than half of the current annual NHS underspend would be enough to solve the immediate funding crisis in social care.”

The cash diversion plea comes in a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Local Government, chaired by the Tory MP, Heather Wheeler.

The timing is choice – a week after the Government set out plans to overhaul care for the elderly.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, last week agreed to the principle of capping the cost of care – in line with recommendations from the landmark Dilnot report last year.

But he refused to commit more money to fund the system leading to shouts of “betrayal” from charities and politicians.

According to the article, figures supplied to the parliamentary committee from councils suggest “that the cost of funding care for frail older people is rising by around 4.1 per cent a year because more people are reaching retirement age and because people are living longer overall.”

At the same time the pressure on local authorities mounts daily because of cuts to their funding from central Government.

Again I feel I’m missing something here. We have a problem with funding care; we apparently have short-term solution if the sums are correct; but the left-over monies set aside for health cannot find the conduit to connect with the need. Why?

It appears that because of the unpredictable nature of health, each year more money is allocated to the NHS than it ultimately needs. The remainder is then reabsorbed by the Government.

Back to the report: In theory the report finds that the annual shortfall in funding for adult social care could be £634 million per year.

“Recent research by the NHS think tank the Nuffield Trust and the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that the annual NHS underspend at £1.5 billion,” the newspaper reports.

“The evidence submitted to this Inquiry suggests that if even the amount of money currently underspent within the NHS budget were to be re-allocated towards integrated preventative services, we would be able to close the care funding gap we have identified,” the report concludes.

It adds that if the money was then spent on preventative measures it could ultimately save the NHS even more money. This sounds sensible doesn’t it!

Research suggests that a programme of preventative measures – ranging from installing handrails in older people’s homes to prevent falls to helping them get out and about more to improve mobility – could save the NHS £1.20 for every £1 spent.

I’m not an economist, but the deal seems sound to me and so does the idea of diverting the NHS underspend to fund social care.

The government successfully dodged the crunch issue of how to fund the Dilnot proposals which would cost the taxpayer an estimated £1.7 billion a year if a cap on care costs was set at £35,000 per person. But these people may just have found a way ahead.

Mrs Wheeler was reported as saying: “This is an important reply to the White Paper and I hope the Government takes our proposals forward.”

Too true: This is proper joined-up thinking – across all parties – and the best response to the White Paper I have seen. 

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Written by debbielq

July 18, 2012 at 6:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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