County councils have written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to rethink “undeliverable” council targets for reducing delayed transfers of care from hospitals that could result in vital funding being withdrawn.
The County Councils Network said expected reductions in delayed transfers attributable to social care, issued by the Department of Health last week, are significantly higher for counties than other types of local authorities.
The letter sent to Mr Hunt on 8 August and signed by CCN health and social care spokesman Colin Noble (Con) says counties face “an uphill battle” to deliver average reductions of 43%, compared to targets of 31% for metropolitan boroughs and non-CCN unitaries, and 19% for London boroughs.
LGC revealed the targets last month after they were sent to council chief executives. They showed that more than a third of all councils were required to reduce delayed transfers by 50% or more by September.
A letter accompanying the targets said the government would “take stock of progress” in November and “consider a review” of 2018-19 allocations of the £2bn additional better care fund cash announced for social care at the Budget. This could see poorly performing councils lose out on anticipated funding.
Cllr Noble, who is leader of Suffolk CC, said the “arbitrary” targets do not recognise historic underfunding of counties compared to other types of councils and the “complex drivers” of delayed transfers in rural areas, such as the high proportion of adults aged over 65 and the fastest growing elderly population.
He added that the narrow timeframe for councils to implement new practices and demonstrate improved performance was counter-productive as it could undermine efforts to find a long-term solution to pressures on the system.
The letter said the targets could also lead to “perverse behaviours” as councils with little chance of hitting the target may decide to reduce care packages for fear of funding being withdrawn.
Cllr Noble (Con) said the targets were “a backwards step” that would lead vulnerable people suffering.
He added: “Counties are the lowest funded councils for social care – they need a sustainable solution, not this double whammy of underfunding and the prospect of funds being withdrawn.”