A proposal to fine local authority social service departments up to£140 a day for every patient waiting in hospital after being declared fit for discharge has been turned into a costly paper chase after health secretary Alan Milburn announced extra cash for councils to pay the fines. [This was announced the day after the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Bill was heavily criticised by senior MPs and health experts from all parts of the commons.]
Local authorities said the fines - expected to total£100m a year - would result only in social service cuts, so Mr Milburn agreed to hand over exactly this sum. The£100m will be taken from the NHS budget and shared among local authorities, only to be paid back into hospitals as fines.
Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said the scheme meant that 'ministers are now robbing Peter to pay Paul, only to rob Paul to pay Peter back'.
The Bill, which ministers hope will be in force by next April, received its second reading last week. Ministers claim the fines will force councils to organise community care and support for patients and free up beds for people awaiting hospital treatment. Councils argue the fines will simply divert millions of pounds from care of the elderly