Councils need to use their extra resources to expand care at home to ensure that all older people are able to leave hospital once it is safe for them to do so, health minister Jacqui Smith told MPs.
'We will introduce stronger incentives to ensure that people do not have to wait so long to be discharged. Older people and other service users have the right to expect that local services are working together as a coherent whole.
She was replying to the adjournment debate on social services in Surrey, initiated by Sue Doughty, Liberal Democrat MP for Guildford, who said people in the county were badly let down because, despite the council's best efforts, the needs in Surrey were greater than its resources.
She praised the work of social services and Guildford BC, saying they had not allowed a problem to develop in the hope that government would bail them out. In fact, social services had the first and largest private finance initiative contract, with the transfer of 17 former county council homes to Anchor Trust, and seven other homes to Care UK to be developed as specialist centres dealing with mental frailty in older people.
To relieve Surrey CC, Guildford BC provided day centres for older people and had implemented 'ground-breaking' intermediate care scheme to provide temporary sheltered accomodation while changes were made to people's homes, so that they could return home after release from hospital.
Care costs were inevitably high in an area where proporty was expensive, said Ms Doughty, and staff vacancy rates caused consern. For care managers the rate was 15%; for occupational therapists, 16.5%; and for learning disability residential care staff, 34%. The average vacancy rate for residential care staff for older people was 31%, but in some homes was 51%.
Nick Hawkins, Conservative MP for Surrey Heath, said many private care homes had closed down in the face of additional government bureaucracy. Ms Doughty agreed.
She said care providers were already seeking an increase in rates because they were not high enough to cover costs.'That fee pressure is likely to be a further£1.5m, but Surrey social services has calculated that if the preserved rights rates were allowed to escalate to the current market level of fees, that figure of£1.5m would rise to£4.6m', added Ms Doughty.
The minister said last year Surrey received an increase of 6.4% in personal social services resources, compared with a national average increase of 4.7%. This year, Surrey's personal social services standard spending assessment will increase by a further 4.6%, its carers' grant by a further 21% and its children's grants by a further 12.8%.
In addition, the county was one of the 55 authorities targeted for newmoney because they had the most severe problems in providing a sufficient range of services to allow people leave hospital. Of the£100m available last year, Surrey CC's share was£2.4m. This year, its allocation is£5.2m.
Hansard 29 Apr 2002: Column 776-784