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By Debbie le Quesne

Extra £2bn ‘needed to integrate NHS and social care’

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The chairman of the Local Government Association has warned that the NHS needs an extra £2bn to help integrate its services with social care.

Sir Merrick Cockell says the money is needed on top of Better Care Fund – the £3.8bn project to make this difficult union happen.

And, with what I believe is good insight, he’s also demanding that the fund gets five-year commitment, rather than the year it is officially scheduled to last.

He believes the money would “ease the short term disruption to residents and to patients.”

Speaking at conference organised by the King’s Fund thinktank in London, and reported in The Guardian, he does add that the Better Care Fund is “our best answer to the questions asked of us in these testing times”.

The Better Care Fund relies on pooled funding from local authorities and the NHS, with the intention of reducing pressure on hospitals by providing more care and support in people’s homes.

Not wishing to dampen enthusiasm here, but on weekly basis I seem to hear or read that local authorities have no spare cash.

The fund launches next April, and Cockell is reported as saying that the coming year is “the crunch year in all respects … we simply can’t fall apart in that year.”

I agree with Mr Cockell that we are, indeed, in “testing times” but I feel I’m missing something here. Local authorities throughout the UK have decimated social care budgets, closed care homes, day centres and libraries as central government finances have been revised downwards,

Can someone tell me please, just where is this extra money coming from? I’m fully supportive of an integrated NHS and social care system and the West Midlands Care Association has excellent working relationships with both of these care streams. I fear, however, the financial juggling is already beginning to unravel as the austerity measures deepen.

Care providers are struggling with unrealistic fees and my NHS colleagues are wincing as their budgets shrink.

Do we need a rethink, Mr Cameron, on this pressing matter? I think so.

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