Councils will be allowed to use part of a £3.8bn integration fund to protect social care against cuts, under a new agreement between the LGA and NHS England.
Directions published today said that “as with the current transfer from the NHS to social care, flexibility must be retained to allow for some of the fund to be used to offset the impact of the funding reductions overall.”
Councils have used previous funding transfers from the NHS for this purpose, although some came in for criticism from Department of Health director-general for social care Jon Rouse who said in May that they had taken it too far by diverting care funds to other services.
The document also said councils and clinical commissioning groups would have to draw up two-year service integration plans by the end of the current financial year.
The document said: “Whilst the [fund] does not come into full effect until 2015-16 we think it is essential that CCGs and local authorities build momentum in 2014-15.”
Funding dedicated to the integration of health and social care will increase by £200m to £1bn in 2014-15.
“In effect there will need to be two-year plans for 2014-15 and 2015-16, which must be in place by March 2014,” it said.
“To this end we would encourage local discussions about the use of the fund to start now in preparation for more detailed planning in the autumn and winter.”
Plans will have to include protection for social care services, although not for social care budgets. They will also have to include seven-day working in health and social care and improved data-sharing, the directions said.
The joint statement went on to say that there was an “excellent opportunity” to align the integration fund with NHS England’s strategy, set out earlier this year in the document The NHS Belongs to the People: A Call to Action.
“This process will support the development of the shared vision for services, with the [fund] providing part of the investment to achieve it,” it said.